Friday, November 8, 2019

November 10th: Worlds 2019 Grand Finals

Semifinals Takeaways

FunPlus vs Invictus

If you enjoyed watching this series you need to get some more of the LPL in your life. This was quintessential LPL League of Legends. Every single player trusting their ability to outplay any situation, gigantic team fights, non-stop action. It's not always perfect but the LPL has it's own flavor and I really do think more people need to watch it. 

That said, we definitely saw the better team win this series. As last week went on I grew more and more into FunPlus as a selection. Invictus were simply making a lot more mistakes and unlike Griffin in the first two games of their quarterfinal series, FunPlus at their current level weren't simply going to spoon feed them their first two games. At this level you can't rely entirely on your star players alone to deliver wins, you need to have a gameplan and proactively put it into motion and Invictus weren't doing that. Invictus were only winning games that their opponents messed up badly in or games in which their individual players, specifically the solo lanes, just completely took over the game.

I thought Ning had a pretty bad series in this one and Tian and Crisp illustrated to the world why jungle and support can actually hard carry games. If I had to give an MVP for this series it would go to Crisp for sure. The dude was everywhere. I also though GimGoon managed TheShy excellently but this shouldn't be a surprise to anybody, GimGoon is an exceptional weakside player. 

The major lesson people should take from this series is to know red flags when you see them. You can't entirely hold it aginst Invictus that Griffin threw those two games but when you saw Griffin completely running over Invictus in the first three games of that series it should have alarmed a lot more people than it did. I know I went on about it for awhile, being on Griffin myself in that series, but Griffin 100% punted those first two games badly and it wasn't by Invictus' engineering either. We saw a similar thing with the Fnatic run in week two of the group stage. It's weird to nearly lose to Clutch then back to back beat SKT and RNG but if you watch those games, RNG had an absymal draft and SKT simply executed terribly. A 3-0 day can look just as bad as an 0-3 day if you're watching carefully. Don't be results oriented!

SK Telecom vs G2 eSports

This was the highest level series this year. It wasn't just an entertaining match between two incredible teams it was exquisite. So many of the fights, skirmishes, map moves, and macro decision points were on a razor's edge. The margin for error in each of these games against these two teams specifically is so small and yet we STILL saw a back and forth. SK Telecom learned from their first meeting that you had to match G2's breakneck pace and they did. To me this was one of the better series SKT played this season and even though they lost we shouldn't be taking anything at all away from them. They managed to play G2's game at G2's level and there is next to nobody that can do that maybe in the history of the game. 

I could go on forever about this one but this was an absolute classic. The discipline, the improvisation, the nearly instant decision making on huge overall decisions, the draft dance, individual performances, this series had it all besides the epic five game finish and the fact that it wasn't the grand final itself. I'll be rewatching this one for years to come. The main takeaway should be that this was probably the two best teams in the tournament and that whoever won this series was likely taking down the title. We had the pleasure of witnessing two of the best teams I've ever watched in my nearly a decade of watching professional League of Legends duke it out and it delivered.

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Worlds 2019 - Grand Finals

G2 eSports -130 (-1.5 @ +140, -2.5 @ +370)
vs
FunPlus Phoenix +110 (+1.5 @ -170, +2.5 @ -510)

Kill Spread: +/- 4.5 @ -120
Kill Total: Over/Under 28.5 @ -120
Total Time per map: Over/Under 30 minutes

There's a certain catharsis in seeing both of these teams finally make it to this point. Two of the more unique teams to ever play the game doing so at an extremely high level is just a blast to watch no matter how you look at it.  FunPlus Phoenix and their fearless leader Doinb with their trademark weakside top, roam centric attack have been completely running teams over with early play making from the Crisp, Tian, and Doinb trio all over the map. Their ability to play around lane priority and take the fight to you has been unbelievably good this tournament and, frankly, all year. G2 and their brilliant macro play and drafting seemingly never come out behind on the map no matter what ridiculous circumstance they get into and no matter who the opponent. Their creativity and in-game problem solving is better than any team I've ever seen.

This is, in many ways, a battle between the greatest bull of all time and the greatest matador of all time. 

The Bull

FunPlus aren't exactly reinventing the wheel they're just finding new ways to use it. The concept of an aggressively roaming team isn't foreign to the scene. It was a large part of the success of one of the greatest teams of all time, Samsung White. FunPlus are utilizing the elite trio of Crisp, Tian, and Doinb to create advantages in lanes and to take whichever opponent they deem vulnerable out of the game. It's predictable but brutally effective if you're not doing all of the preventative maintenance necessary to minimize losses from the sacrifices FPX are making to do so. FunPlus are the bull, or as I've affectionately called them "The Juggernaut." To say they lack tact would be a bit disrespectful but they more or less show you what they plan to do every game it's just a matter of whether you can stop it. The catch is that they're extremely good at it, hence the bull comparison.

The Matador

Doesn't it feel like no matter what edge a team is getting that G2 aren't ever actually behind in any game? That's because, most of the time, it's literally true. Great teams have a way of doing this. SKT did it for years where opposing teams would have a kill lead, sometimes a substantial one, but the economy never stopped or neutral objectives were taken and suddenly the enemy team blew a handful of summoner spells and long cooldowns to more or less break even. G2 do this better than any team I've ever seen. Their management of the map and overall income is astonishing. Whether it's avoiding a dive, starting a chaos-ridden romp through the enemy jungle, or baiting out a long cooldown like a teleport, G2 are always finding an edge. It's like they're toying with their competition both on the Rift and in the draft. Like a great finesse boxer (or a matador) they never take a clean blow from their opponent.

I'm supremely confident that G2 will be our first Western League of Legends World Champion since season one for a number of reasons but the main one is that I think, in this specific case, that the matador that I've referenced is just as strong and just as big as the bull. I think G2 could win this game without any of their intangibles just playing FunPlus straight up. They have an advantage at every position except maybe a push at jungle and if you want to give Lwx the edge because of Perkz' ocassional inconsistencies feel free. To me G2 have advantages at three positions, and a slight advantage at the other two. Just looking at the tale of the tape here I think that if you exclude all of the wild and crazy "just G2 things" that they do they could still win this series straight up.

Then we factor in the intangibles. I don't want to completely write off FunPlus Phoenix because they are, arguably, the strangest team the G2 has seen. In some ways they'll see a lot of themselves in FunPlus even if it's not with the same champions. Jungle and Support creating opportunities and strange champion pools are just a few things in common and perhaps that could throw G2 off. But this is a five game series. FunPlus Phoenix do the same trick but with a different magic wand while G2 actually know all the tricks regardless of the wand they're using.

G2 have a massive edge in the draft and that's not up for debate to me. FunPlus have shown a lot of things over this calendar year and over the careers of these players, I doubt we'll see anything G2 will be surprised by and, perhaps more importantly, that G2 can't adapt to over a five game series. FunPlus aren't severely limited but they are predictable in the sense that, regardless of the champions involved, you know exactly what they're going to do and G2 will have ample time to come up with a gameplan to attack that. I doubt side selection will play a roll in this series unless a pick, maybe Ryze, becomes so contested that it eats up an extra red side ban. (Side note: side selection is determined by coin toss not seeding, it was the case for semifinals as well, I was incorrect in assuming higher seed had choice but it didn't really end up mattering, just a note for next time)

G2 have a massive edge in ability to adapt based on what both teams have shown me over the course of this year. FunPlus are exceedingly good at what they do but they don't really do a lot else, or at least they haven't been forced to. The LPL, for the most part, is a strategically linear league. Most of the teams excel at one thing and do that regardless of the circumstances and because of this, many of the LPL teams, specifically the very good ones, have little need to mix up what they're doing to adapting opponents. I'm not saying the LEC is a stronger league but it is a more diverse league from a strategic standpoint. A team like Fnatic can do pretty much anything, Origen and Splyce play very by-the-book, and Vitality are surprisingly similar to FunPlus. G2's ability to play anything, anywhere, against anything is possibly the best of all time. It creates headaches in the draft and on the Rift and over the course of a five game series, as we've witnessed, it's incredibly difficult to come out on top even if you get a game or two.

Between FunPlus' linear, predictable approach, G2's seemingly endless toolbox of plays, G2's borderling impossible to defeat drafting, G2's pound for pound ability to outclass FunPlus, and the fact that this is a best of five I'm siding heavily with G2 to win the World Championship. Simply put, this is one of, if not THE best team I've ever seen play this game. Their ability to adapt to their opponent, quickly and efficiently solve problems, and improvise is better than anything I've ever seen and that's not even factoring in that they just have five of the best players in the world at their positions AND tremendous confidence AND a level of chemistry and team synergy that's second to no one. I thought hard about this series and how FunPlus win it and to me it comes down to whether Doinb can actually get going on one of his weird picks or Perkz gets overzealous and, honestly, those are the only two things I could come up with and I don't think they've very likely at all. 

This is very heavy handed on my part, primarily because it's the last match for a little while. I'd cut this wager in half. For those tailing I'd count this as a 6 unit lock but I'll be going 10 units strong on the moneyline partially because I'm insulated by FunPlus futures but also because I just couldn't come up with a scenario where G2 lose this. I honestly think this line should be closer to -175. FunPlus are an elite team but they're exactly the kind of team G2 beats up on and FunPlus haven't faced anybody remotely close to how unique and weird G2 is, much less how good G2 is. G2 nearly defeated SK Telecom without taking a baron buff.... that's INSANE! This line is only close to even because the LPL won the tournament last year against Europe and because FunPlus just dominated a massively public, and in my opinion overrated team in Invictus. I have a ton of respect for FunPlus but we're witnessing all-time levels here with this G2 lineup and exceptions have to be made. 

G2 is the best team in the world, maybe the best team of all time. I'll bust it out one last time for the competitive season but this is a windmill slam. G2 eSports 3-1.


Moneyline: G2 eSports -135  (8.44 units)(MAX)

Moneyline: G2 eSports -125 (1.25 units)(MAX)

Moneyline: G2 eSports -120 (1.75 units)(MAX)

Spread: G2 eSports -1.5 maps @ +135 (1.25 units)

Spread: G2 eSports -2.5 maps @ +370 (0.25 units)

Map 1, 2, and 3: OVER 30 minutes @ -115 (TBD units)
(this is a lean for now but I'll probably be half a unit on each map, will update this post if I fire)

(Note: This looks odd but again I use flat unit size and these are max limit wagers at various books. As mentioned above, for those tailing I'd treat this like a 5 or 6 unit wager which denotes my maximum confidence, I'm personally just going a bit heavier since it's our last match of the competitive year but as always you see it all here.)

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Additional Props:

Map 1: FunPlus 1st Dragon @ -115 (0.5 units) 

Map 2: FunPlus 1st Dragon @ -115 (0.5 units) 

Map 3: FunPlus 1st Dragon @ -115 (0.5 units) 

Dragon hasn't been a priority for G2 while it's been emphasized by FunPlus. At the World Championships G2 has only taken 51.5% of dragons and only 0.8 dragons @ 15 minutes while FunPlus has taken 77.1% of dragons and 1.2 dragons @ 15 minutes. If you look at their more recent games G2 only got the first dragon in three of their last seven while FPX have taken it in five of their last seven. I'm limited on these but if I can find somewhere to take more I absolutely love this.

Prop: Highest kill spree OVER 5.5 kills @ +105

I'm going to list this because I like it and it was John's Pick of the Week on The Gold Card Podcast but it's not offered to me so it won't count toward my tally.

------------------------

Enjoy this match! It's been a tremendous tournament and a wild and crazy year and I'm looking forward to my full annual breakdown but let's end this one with a win!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

November 2nd and 3rd: Worlds 2019 Semifinals

I'll be traveling and competing this weekend so I wanted to get this post out a bit early to everyone and let people know that I'm going to be a lot less active on Twitter this weekend. I'm going to be able to watch these games but not able to really VOD review them and comment in further detail either later at night or when I get home on Monday afternoon. Enjoy the matches this weekend these should be great ones!

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Invictus Gaming -145 (-1.5 @ +135, -2.5 @ +370)
vs
FunPlus Phoenix +125 (+1.5 @ -165, +2.5 @ -510)

Kill Spread: -4.5 / +4.5
Kill Total: Over/Under 27.5 
Game Time: OTB

For someone that loves seeing as much inter-regional play as possible I do love me a good ol' fashioned domestic rivalry and this is setting up to be a fascinating one. Both series between these teams domestically went to three games, FunPlus took the Spring split match and Invictus took the Summer split match which was the third match with the full World Championship Invictus lineup reassembled after a turbulent start to the Summer, it was also FunPlus' first and only match loss all Summer. With that said, the LPL plays a really long season, it's always difficult to parse out how much weight we should put on an individual match even between titans and because of this I don't want to look into how these teams attacked each other and just assume that's how this series is going to play out this weekend but I do think we can get at least an idea. 

The go-to strategies for these teams are philosophically similar but completely opposite one another in application. 

Invictus rely heavily, and I mean HEAVILY, on their superstar solo laners and transition advantages into plays. This is often centered on TheShy who is so good that it almost doesn't matter whether or not he's strong side or weak side, countered or favored in a matchup he seemingly always finds his way to a lead or inevitability. There is a very real argument that he's the best player in the world at any position for a reason. When Rookie and TheShy aren't getting sizeable advantages and transitioning them onto the map Invictus tend to struggle but they have the luxury of having two of the best individual solo laners to ever play the game so that doesn't happen often.

 FunPlus, on the other hand, often sacrifice in their solo lanes to get their bottom duo ahead. While predictable, FunPlus are able to manage to do this through a combination of factors. First, GimGoon is an exceptional weak side laner. I can't emphasize enough just how crucial GimGoon is to FunPlus' approach to the game I feel he goes severely underrated because his numbers don't pop off the page. His job is extremely difficult. The weak side laner's job is to essentially know they're at a constant disadvantage and play to minimize losses or help the rest of the map by drawing pressure. It's a thankless job (remember Dyrus?). GimGoon's best champion, Gangplank, illustrates this point perfectly. Second, Tian and Crisp are ridiculously good at timing based plays and maniuplating the map and vision. I think this also goes without a lot of praise because it's nuanced and not "sexy" in terms of gaudy numbers. I like to call FunPlus The Juggernaut but there is a lot of underlying work that goes into making what look like brute force plays brilliant and it almost always starts with Tian and Crisp setting it up. 

The third factor for why FunPlus are able to manage to succeed in nearly every game regardless of how predictable they might be deserved it's own paragraph and that is that Doinb is one of the most unique players not only to play his position, but to ever play the game. Doinb is not a traditional mid laner. Does this excuse him from laning that is weaker than the elite mid lane players of the world? No. It does, however, make you realize just what it is that makes Doinb so special and that is that he's essentially a second jungler. A second roaming presence on the map. Frankly it's weird. It reminds me a lot of Hai on those old Cloud 9 teams, a guy that wasn't the strongest laner but he was often the axis around which the entire team would rotate. Doinb has a bizarre champion pool. Nautilus, Aatrox, Pantheon, Poppy, Rumble, Nocturne to name a few but he also does play one of the best Ryze's I've ever seen which we saw in the last series. FunPlus live or die by Doinb's ability to affect the map partially because he's also their shotcaller but also because of this pool. When FunPlus lose it's because teams are able to shut him out of the game but that's much easier said than done.

We have two linear teams that have very predictable strategies and that are very familiar with one another. One has a significant advantage in the solo lanes, the other in the support and jungle positions. I put Jackey and Lwx as a wash but they're both unique as well. So how do we break this down? Both of these teams are complete outliers for me so it makes evaluating them extremely difficult. Because of this I think I need to look at these teams through a different lens than my normal one for evaluating a team. You can't simply look at recent performance or the past history between the two and use that as any sort of accurate measure of what to expect. I also think when you have two fundamentally different approaches to the game that you can't compare individual players apples to apples either. I think we need to look bigger picture at this matchup.

At its core, this matchup comes down to whether or not you prefer laning prowess or map prowess. FunPlus play the map incredibly well. I think Tian and Crisp are vastly superior to Ning and Baolan and that's not just in this tournament but that's been the case all year long against all sorts of competition. Along with Doinb they're able to make a lot of the timing based plays that can break a game wide open. In some ways they remind me of Invictus last year, they consistently attack open windows on the map in a number of unique ways. Invictus just have such ridiculous solo lanes that they make up for a lot of the errors on the map in raw individual prowess. 

I'm siding with FunPlus here for a number of reasons:

First, I tend to value superior map play and macro over individual talent even in a metagame that has favored individual prowess more than any since season three. Whether its manuevering through the mid game at a deficit to scale up or punishing a mistake from the opponent or putting the pieces in place to ice a victory, FunPlus just play the map and overall game better than Invictus do. I put more weight on solid fundamentals because it's more reliable and repeatable than simply assuming you'll get an individual outplay which is honestly what Invictus do a lot of the time. Sure sometimes those individual plays can break a game open or thwart an attack, Invictus have reminded everyone of this, but generally speaking I'll take the repeatable thing unless there is an enormous gap. If I get a selection wrong because of a tremendous individual outplay I can live with it. If I get a selection wrong because there was a pattern of poor fundamentals that I could point to beforehand and didn't see then I was on the wrong side and I can't live with it.

Second, I think Doinb has too many options right now to simply assume that Invictus will be able to ban out or manage him easily. Rookie is a better player, I'll never deny that but I think there are too many "must pick/ban" right now and many more accumulating between these two teams such as Ryze, Qiyana, Xayah, and Kaisa. FunPlus also get side selection for the series which means that they get to dictate how they want these drafts to go and it'll be on Invictus to break serve. Are they capable of doing that? Absolutely with their solo laners stables of counterpicks I'm sure they've got something cooked up but I doubt it's anything FunPlus isn't prepared for.

 Third, this assumption that because Invictus managed to beat Chovy playing tanks means that they'll be able to beat FunPlus playing tanks is, once again, a comparison taken out of context. I'll repeat again that Invictus easily could have been 3-0'd in that series and if that happened nobody would be talking about "putting Chovy on a carry." The winners get all the credit but it's not too difficult to imagine that series looking absolutely brilliant for Griffin even with a severe disadvantage in the top lane. I'd even go as far as to say that Griffin laid out a pretty solid blueprint for punishing Invictus both in draft and in their openings to games. It's not outside of FunPlus' skill range to replicate something like what we saw from Griffin and simply not make the game ending mistakes they did in games one and two.

Fourth, GimGoon will manage his matchup with TheShy much better than Sword did. This his wheelhouse. GimGoon had a lot of success absorbing pressure the last time these two met even though FunPlus lost the series. Generally FunPlus were able to convert plus trades across the map. For a prognosticator I rarely Babe Ruth-style called shot a specific champion pick but I'm almost positive we're going to see the GimGoon Mordekaiser in this series. Why do I think this? Mordekaiser is an exceptional weak side top laner. He's exceedingly difficult to dive, almost impossible for most champions to 1v1 besides very niche things that can be banned out in a second ban phase, and punishes teams with poor coordination or setup. I'm not saying Invictus have poor coordination based on a few plays but we've seen some lapses this tournament. FunPlus are going to leave GimGoon on TheShy Island and see how he fares while they get bottom lane ahead. At least that's what I'd do. Force Invictus to play your game and 4v4 or get free dragons and bottom lane towers all day long especially if Xayah is banned.

Fifth, line value. If you take the name plates off and just watch these teams play I'd say FunPlus are the better team and they're +125 underdogs here. They play the map better, make fewer mistakes (although they aren't perfect), show decisiveness in decision making, proactively put their win conditions into place instead of reactively, and also show some level of creativity. They're also a strange team to draft against even though you could trace a pattern of what they do every game. Invictus also have predictable patterns but are often much less proactive, relying on individual ability or enemy mistakes to break a game open. This is in stark contrast to the World Championship winning team we saw last year even though they have the same players. Obviously it's opinion but I think the wrong team is favored here based on bias. I think FunPlus have been the objectively better team over the course of this year and even in this tournament and I'm not sure if people just seem to have forgotten that or if people just really love this Invictus team.

As I mentioned it's extremely difficult to bet these two teams because they more or less throw a lot of the things I look for in evaluating teams out the window. Invictus have been my worst team in terms of betting accuracy over the past two years and my second worst team in actual betting losses. A lot of that had to do with my own personal error chasing -1.5 spreads against bad teams but even with that in consideration they've been a tough team for me to pin down. Invictus do a lot of things wrong. A LOT. Really they get away with murder because TheShy and Rookie are so damn good and bail them out of so many situations. Invictus are kind of like the Brett Favre of League of Legends; their poor team fundamentals (relative to other elite teams) put them in awful situations that they just somehow always find a way to play out of. You can't explain it, you can't make sense of it, they just do it. The reason I say this is mostly as a way of saying that it would not surprise me at all to see Invictus win this series and potentially even win this tournament but I simply can't advise anyone to bet that way in good conscience. FunPlus are the better team here. They rely a lot less on NEEDING to be good because they do all the housekeeping things that make it so you don't NEED to outplay to win games. If you want to go on gravitas and favor individual players that's totally understandable but I'll be betting FunPlus and if TheShy and Rookie can blow these games out of the water or if FunPlus make massive errors like Griffin did then so be it, like I said I can live with that.

I'm also going to be on the kill total overs. In six meetings we saw 24-35-25-26-31-40 which means the over 27.5 would have only hit three times but it vastly exceeded that total in the other three games and was just a bit short in the other three. I feel this line should have been 28.5 or 29.5. There is a chance we get some nerves based on the gravity of the games here but I actually think these two teams will go the opposite way. Because they know each other so well I feel like these teams won't have that awkward "feeling each other out" phase that a lot of series have and that we'll just get straight into it. We could get blown out a bit by a split push game but again because these teams are generally very linear and their strategies conflict in such a way that there will be a lot of kills traded in exchange for other across the map, that we'll see higher kill early games into bigger team fights with more kills which is a recipe for overs!



Moneyline: FunPlus Phoenix +135 (3 units)(5Dimes)

Spread: FunPlus Phoenix -1.5 maps @ +220 (1 unit)(5Dimes)

O/U: Map 1 Total Kills OVER 27.5 @ -120 (1 unit)(Nitrogen)
O/U: Map 2 Total Kills OVER 27.5 @ -120 (1 unit)(Nitrogen)


-------------------------------------



G2 eSports +135 (+1.5 @ -150, +2.5 @ -435)
vs
SK Telecom -155 (-1.5 @ +120, -2.5 @ +325)

Kill Spread: -4.5 / +4.5
Kill Total: Over/Under 26.5 
Game Time: OTB

While FunPlus and Invictus was the battle of two linear teams that are very familiar with one another, SKT and G2 are two very versatile teams that respect and learn a lot from one another but don't really have that much familiarity. This series is fascinating. Personally I think this is the two best teams left in the tournament and that whoever wins this wins the tournament barring exceptional performances. The depth of strategies these two teams possess as well as the overall teamplay and individual skill is simply unmatched. 

I don't even know where to begin to break this series down. There are so many variables in the draft and all of these players are so good that I really don't even think there is a severe mismatch anywhere. I'd give slight edges to Jankos and Mikyx but other than that I think there's an argument to be made for any of the other spots favoring SKT. I think SKT are generally a more refined team but I think G2 are a bit more versatile and a lot more creative. SKT have the edge in pure team fighting, G2 have the edge in overall map play. The thing is all of these advantages and disadvantages aren't that drastic because, again, both of these teams and all of these players are so damn good.

I think G2 have looked like the better team this tournament but I also think that SKT wasn't exactly taking Splyce seriously in their last match which, in my opinion, was by design. SKT have shown us this before. They'll hide information or try to gain draft equity by showing a strategy or champion off to plant the seed of doubt and make planning more difficult. In this case it was both the Draven and Khan on a split pusher. I simply can't help but think we haven't seen the best of SKT. Every single iteration of this team over the years has improved as the tournament has gone on. To me that's great coaching. I've said it time and time again but this team uses information better than any other team in the history of this game. If there is an edge to be gained this way they will find it but I think G2 pose the most intense challenge to prepare for of maybe any team ever and I think that's what makes them so unique. I'm not saying G2 are going to completely flummox SKT into confusion but it's just so difficult to gain any sort of edge with the versatility and creativity and aggression G2 have in champion select and that's something SKT have had as an advantage against pretty much everybody over the past seven years. 

It's weird to say because of how strategically deep these teams are but G2 just have a way of making the game about the in game play so this series comes down to adjustments and play and because of that I think this series is damn close to a 50/50. SKT feel a bit like the Patriots in that over the years "fading" them hasn't exactly been a profitable position but I think G2 are perhaps the greatest challenge this team has ever faced. I also think that it's gone a bit unstated amongst all the hype for other teams and because of the overall strength of the LCK but I'd argue this iteration of SKT is the strongest roster to date and they still have room to improve on what we've seen so far. It feels impossible to give this series it's due because you could go in a million directions but I can't emphasize enough that I think we're legitimately looking at two of the best teams the world has ever seen here.

I'm going to be betting G2 because the line value is simply too good.  I think there is a very reasonable case for G2 being favored and they're a +135 underdog. The thing is, I can't help but think SKT have another gear. Think what you want about him but SKT also have Faker. The reason I mention this is because regardless of where he stands in the current pantheon of great players, the dude has ALWAYS elevated on the biggest stage and he has more experience in this spot than anybody else remaining in the tournament. I'm not usually one to weigh intangibles too heavily but that has to mean something. There are so few people that have that amount of time in the spotlight, let alone always deliver. It's a bit of a gut feeling but I'm going to limit my exposure to G2 here. I think we haven't seen the best of SKT and that this just feels like it could be one of the greatest series we've ever had the pleasure of watching. 

Besides the G2 moneyline I'll be on the maps one and two UNDER game time once it's posted as long as its 32 or higher. These two teams are both so dominant and decisive in their wins that I think while they are feeling each other out and making adjustments over the series to make this a full set, that there will likely be a couple lopsided games to start off the series. Typically when two extremely high level teams meet we don't get these slugfest type games, especially in a best of five series. Usually a couple games are clean, decisive victories for whoever had the clearer gameplan or execution in that specific game. I expect that to be the case here even if I think we get a long slobberknocker of a series.

Moneyline: G2 eSports +135 (2 units)

O/U: Map 1 UNDER 32:00 @ ??? (??? unit)

O/U: Map 2 UNDER 32:00 @ ??? (??? unit)

(Will update these once they're posted. Likely 1-2 unit wagers per map)




Saturday, October 26, 2019

October 27th: Worlds 2019 - Quarterfinals Day 2 - DWG vs G2 / SKT vs Splyce

Quarterfinals Day 1 - Takeaways

Invictus vs Griffin

1) I think the better team lost this series but there's no excuses.
This might not come a surprise to some while it may be to others but do yourselves a favor and watch the first two games of this series over again. To me there were two fatal errors that cost Griffin these games.

Imagine Griffin simply turn and take the fight at the herald in game one instead of being poked down (or just bail altogether). You had a tremendous early lead, set the pace, a tempo based composition and were all set up to snowball past the Kog'maw counterpicks item spikes and end the game before it mattered but you get aced at a herald fight that you had multiple options out of and instead did none of them. If Kog'maw doesn't get the three kills and two assists he got in that fight to get speedrunned to his two item spike there's a good chance you just roll over this game. Hell you could have even abandoned the fight and just gave up the herald, althoug that wouldn't have been ideal. All Griffin needed to do was turn and take the fight. The target didn't matter, just turn and pick one and go. From here you could have reset, proceeded to choke the opposing jungler out of the game, set picks, and likely end before your lack of siege mattered. Game two imagine they make any clear decision at that baron fight in game two to net them either a won fight, a pick, or a baron. Anything at all, instead you had Lehends zoning and then your group of four on a split call that ended up losing you a fight and a baron.

Griffin should have been up 2-0 in this series and quite simply botched two neutral objectives in such spectacular fashion that they almost singlehandedly lost them both of those games. I can count on one hand the number of leads Griffin have thrown in their entire existence and we got to see two today. Props to Invictus for properly punishing poor decision making but Invictus didn't really win this series as much as Griffin threw it badly in my opinion. At this level the teams are simply too good to make such huge mistakes. For a team that's normally damn near immaculate in this aspect of the game I think it's fair to say that these were two uncharacteristic and ultimately fatal errors.  I've been against the choking narrative just in general in most sports but I'm seeing ghosts with this one.

2) Sword was terrible but ultimately not the reason Griffin lost this series.
I know Sword was bad. We all know Sword was bad. I'm not here to defend him. In the first two games it almost didn't matter how well or poorly he played. Poor decision making around neutrals cost them both games and that's a teamwide problem. You could make the argument that if you had a better top performance you wouldn't have been so reliant on always being correct about objectives and macro play and that's fine but honestly how many top laners are going to have good performances vs TheShy anyway? Not many. Maybe they go get one.

I did want to mention that I think Sword has a rather egregious performance, that the wrong things are being highlighted. During the match I actually liked the game four draft quite a bit with the Karthus but shortly after tweeting about it came to the realization that because of the Karthus pick, Griffin were going to be leaving Sword without jungle presence for counter ganks and without accurate and proactive tracking, something Tarzan is better at than anybody, on Ning. What does this mean? Jayce vs Kayle is more or less a free win 1v1 for Jayce and in most cases can be a severely punishing bully lane. Kayle can have good gank assist with ultimate and turn some 2v2's in a lot of matchups but for the most part Jayce dominates. The problem is, Jayce doesn't deal with ganks well and when his jungler isn't able to support well in a 2v2 or keep the enemy jungle pinned down or tracked at least it makes it so Jayce has to play the lane less aggressively than he's supposed to to respect the gank. We saw this play out. Sword wasn't amassing a CS lead early because he was, intelligently, respecting the gank threat. He gets credit for this. What he gets criticism for is poor wave management to freeze. A freeze could be construed as dangerous because if the jungler lane ganks your frozen wave and it crashes it can be a tremendous gold and experience loss but I believe it was the right play here knowing that you were going to have limited to no jungle help. Instead his poor wave management created the opposite scenario. TheShy was able to get a freeze on his side, Ning ganks, it looked like a possible escape and then... Sword went back in?!

I guess the point I'm making is that this is the kind of thing we should be critical of and not simply the CS and KDA performances. TheShy had massive CS leads but that's not always indicative of the game or a way to judge a player in all situations. Don't simply point to a CS lead and say "man TheShy is bodying him" because a lot of the time there's a lot more that goes into it than simply the 1v1. Today that was the case. The Jayce pick was fine, the setup around it was a risk that Griffin took in the draft and it was punished.

Could Sword have played it better? Absolutely but it wasn't 100% his fault like the narrative will be for awhile. Griffin could have won this series 3-0 with three poor performances from Sword. Again this isn't a defense of him just what I'm seeing. At the end of the day you need to perform in the the big spot and Griffin, a team that I thought was far better and equipped to dominate this series, made critical mistakes and their liability (Sword) didn't do anything to elevate and help change that. Nut up or shut up. Griffin simply couldn't do it today. I think if you play this series ten times over Griffin win six or seven times, maybe more but this time, when it mattered, they screwed up.


3) My concerns about Fnatic's overrated week two, amongst other things, ended up being true.
I talked a lot about this in the post about this series yesterday but I had a lot of concerns about the weight everyone was putting on Fnatic's week two run to make it out of groups. The group stage is a small sample size and while we shouldn't draw too many conclusions from it, there are certain things we can identify as potential problems or fundamental mistakes that aren't easily remedied in a weeks time. Teams also perform better and worse some days or in some matchups and best of ones amplify that. However I think this was a classic case of selective memory because of bias and excitement. Fnatic struggled and could have lost to Clutch. They then faced an SKT team that had such dreadfully poor execution that all Fnatic had to do was be there to capitalize (this isn't easy, credit for being where they were supposed to be). I wrote a lot about that game last week. Then they faced RNG who had what I'd call the second worst draft in the entire group stage in their final game which, you could argue, was so poor that Fnatic essentially won on champion select. I'm not taking this run away from Fnatic but I think the masses got caught up in the excitement of a run and were ignoring the warning signs that were staring them right in the face as well as the "Fnatic always clutch it out" narrative. Where's that clutch play now?

They had quite a run but what we saw from Fnatic in this tournament was not remotely close to the same level we saw in LEC playoffs against G2 and that alarmed me. They didn't look themselves. The creativity, the versatility, the pace was all missing. When selecting FunPlus yesterday part of my reasoning was that Fnatic seemed to be lacking in confidence this tournament and that's the type of blood in the water FunPlus, a ridiculously confident and decisive team destroys you with. It just didn't look to me like they trusted themselves to execute and that makes you either play afraid, feel the need to cheese, or simply get sloppy. I thought FunPlus would just outmuscle them in dirty bar brawl type of series. That's more or less what happened although it ended up cleaner than I'd pictured. FunPlus simply outclassed Fnatic through and through in this series and it showed. There's not a whole lot more to it than that. I wish we could have seen a closer to ceiling performance from Fnatic but it's something we likely should have seen the warning signs for in advance.

4) Narratives are intriguing but dangerous.
You could make an argument that today was a tale of two narratives (maybe three if you count "Invictus is back!"). "Griffin always choke in best of fives" and "Fnatic are always clutch at worlds!" The reason I want to talk about this is that we saw wildly different results. I don't think FunPlus performed above and beyond or anything, they were just themselves. It's not like Fnatic showed up against a team with the eye of the tiger that day, like SKT vs Griffin in Summer Finals, they just got straight up outclassed badly by a typical FPX performance because they underperformed. On the opposite side of the coin we have Griffin, a team that I think was significantly better make two completely uncharacteristic mistakes from magnificent opening leads and ultimately lose a series because of them.

Narratives are a dangerous thing not only to out bankrolls as handicappers but to our general perception as well. When you go into a series or game or anything with a narrative driven analysis you better be damn certain there's something to it and that's a borderline impossible thing to do in most cases. This is why I rely so heavily on film. It's tangible. There's evidence I can point to, patterns and trends to recognize, and conclusions I can draw from this information. It's accurate way WAY more often than any given narrative. Sure, sometimes you get "film juked" (hey there Gen.G!) but for the most part this is why I cap this way. I can know I was on the right side or, if I'm inaccurate, I can identify where I was incorrect in my analysis.

I love the stories as much as the next person. It's compelling! The human element to all of this is it's own separate game though. Get caught up in the hype or disappointment all you want just make sure that when discussing results that you're looking at and breaking down the film as objectively as you can. Check your confirmation bias at the door if you're stepping into an analytical discussion or, at the very least acknowledge that you're being biased before starting a conversation so that people know where you stand and what to expect from a conversation. We all love chopping it up and meme'ing each other, it's all in good fun and ultimately what's fun about sharing this together, just be clear and bring some tape to the conversation!

5) That's why we play the games.
Tangentally related to the last point but we can prognosticate and theorize all we want but there's a reason we play the games and that's what makes this challenging. Part of the difficulty of working with so much gray and not that much black and white is parsing out what is relevant and important vs what isn't and turning that into actionable information based on results that may not necessarily be accurate. It's really difficult. Cut some of the fat away from the results and get to the real meat of a turnout and figure out if your reasoning was conceptually sound, information was accurate, and what you were right and wrong about. This is a marathon not a sprint and if you can identify what I like to call "The Real" you'll have a lot more success long term.

-----------------------------------------


Worlds 2019 - Quarterfinals Day 2

SK Telecom T1 -5000 (-2.5 maps @ -250)
vs
Splyce +2000 (+2.5 maps @ +190)





There's really not a whole lot to say about this matchup. I'm interested to see what Splyce have cooked up to try out, they haven't historically been a team that does that sort of thing but it almost feels like they'll be forced to here. The only way to play this match is through props and over/unders but it's just so challenging to get a read on what Splyce are going to try to do and how well SKT will be able to shut it down. 9.5 is a lot of kills to lay and I could definitely see some of these games either going weird with a strange pick or just 8-2, 14-5 type SKT clean wins. I'm going to look around but even the -2.5 feels too rich to pay. SKT tend to be a take care of business type of team but I wouldn't be surprised to see them have a bit of fun or attempt to show a weird pick themselves to try to earn some draft equity for later in the tournament.

TL:DR - I'm not giving Splyce a shot here. If you think they can take a map be my guest but I'll pass. There's a chance I'll add some kill spreads of over/unders later but I'm going to watch the line movement until then because I don't like anything now.

No wager (for now, check back later)

-----------------------------------------


DAMWON Gaming +110 (+1.5 @ -165, +2.5 @ -505)
vs
G2 eSports -130 (-1.5 @ +135, -2.5 @ +365)

This is going to be a fascinating one. A lot of people are going to be down on G2's performance at the end of group stages against Griffin, especially now that Griffin lost in such disappointing fashion to a team that is eerily similar to DAMWON in Invictus. It's not like Griffin "laid the blueprint" for how to beat G2 because, simply put, not everyone is as disciplined and clean (usually.... grrr) as Griffin are. They make extremely difficult to tame situations look easy with how they play. DAMWON are much less subtle and nuanced in how they do things. I actually think this series is going to play out more like I imagined FunPlus/Fnatic was going to and even though that didn't end up like I thought, I'm seeing this in much the same vein but with perhaps a bit more trickery involved.

We could break this series down by individual matchups but I think it's mostly give a little, take a little. People will point to the bottom lane as in G2's favor but it's likely a closer matchup than perception would indicate. Nuclear had his pop off game but even outside of that has had an excellent tournament showing that he's the disciplined "adult in the room" on this team of uppity youngsters. Canyon has been one of the best individual performers in the entire tournament. Nuguri is.... well he's Nuguri, a lot like Huni in his prime, prone to error but capable of taking over a game. All told I think the overall map matchups end up a wash, maybe we break tie in favor of the G2 bot lane a little. Not enough to warrant any real weight from me. This is somewhat against the grain as most people think G2 have massive advantage across the board besides jungle and mid where they think it's even.

To me this match is going to come down to problem solving both in game and in the draft. Both of these teams make mistakes but both have their own ways of working through them. I give G2 an edge in this aspect because I think they might be the most creative problem solving team I've ever seen. If you need to pull a rabbit out of a hat G2 are going to find a way to do that with a paper clip and a rubber band with alarming consistency somehow. DAMWON tend to solve their problems more like the LPL teams do, with brute force and decisiveness.

I compared FunPlus to the bull and Fnatic to the matador yesterday and said that sometimes the bull wins but I think in this case we have a slightly more dexterous but not as strong of a bull (DWG) and a matador that's one of the all time greats and has the ego to go with it (G2). I think the matador is going to win this one. This guy has all the tricks and he's going to frustrate the living hell out of this bull before putting an end to him.

I'm giving the edge to G2 here and betting a moderate amount on them for a few reasons. I think their depth of strategies is superior to DAMWON's both in quality and actual variety. G2 have played a lot of different things, a lot of different ways, in a lot of different situations and that's invaluable in a situation like this. I also think G2 punish mistakes better than DAMWON do. DAMWON have improved significantly in some aspects of their macro game but will get into bouts of games where they legitimately look like they don't know what they're doing. This is one of those "film juke" teams that I discussed earlier. It's hard to tell what's real and what's ugly but covered up by their raw ability. Although they've improved, DAMWON's less than stellar macro game and penchant for sloppy mistakes won't go unpunished by G2, one of the strongest punishers of mistakes I've ever seen. G2 also throw a really nasty curveball and DAMWON aren't exactly the best at figuring that type of thing out on the fly unless they're ahead.



Moneyline: G2 eSports -130 (3 units)(5 Dimes)






Friday, October 25, 2019

October 26th: Worlds 2019 - Quarterfinals Day 1 - IG vs GRF / FNC vs FPX

Worlds 2019 - Quarterfinals Day 1

Before I dive into these games I just wanted to remind everyone to enjoy this. This tournament has been incredible so far and we've got even more high level matches to come. Marvel at that and remind yourself to enjoy this regardless of the results or impact on your bankroll.

--------------------------

Griffin -150 (-1.5 @ +115, -2.5 @ +347)
vs
Invictus Gaming +130 (+1.5 @ -145, +2.5 @ -475)

Kill Spread: -3.5 @ -110 / +3.5 @ -115
Kill Total: Over/Under 26.5



Bear with me because there is a ton to unpack with these two teams so this one runs quite a bit longer than my usual writeups.

I want to take some time to discuss my thoughts on the narrative bias that I think is happening here but I should clarify that it has next to no bearing on my analysis for this game. It's just something that I think needs to be talked about because there's a lot of noise and assumptions going on right now about both of these teams and I think you should know where I stand and what I think about these preconceptions.

The first is the "Griffin always choke in big spots" argument. I know where this comes from. Griffin have finished first place in all three of their first three splits in the LCK but have lost in the finals three times, twice to SKT and once to the KT super team from last year. I'll concede that Spring finals this year in 2019 they severely underperformed expectations but their matches against SKT in the Summer I found to be much closer than the final box score indicates. When you get two great teams you'll often see these lopsided looking results because they both know exactly how to close out a game. People overreact big time to lopsided results that are in highly publicized or viewed or "important" spots like a championship final or a playoff match. Just like aces in poker you're going to remember the times you lose with them way more than the times you win with them. It's human psychology. It's the Lebron vs Jordan argument. I don't hold it against Griffin that they have lost three finals against two incredible teams. I don't even hold it against them that they lost in the way that they did because that's often how it looks when an incredible team beats you. I look at larger sample size and repeatable results and Griffin have that in spades. Let's not forget that Invictus also "choked" in a big spot getting swept by a team that you could argue shouldn't have even made the LPL playoffs in LNG and they did this without their Worlds seed locked up. All Invictus needed to do was win that one series and they would have locked the #2 seed for the LPL at minimum but they lost. Talk about a choke job...

The second is the concept that bringing the World Championship lineup back together is suddenly a massive buff to Invictus. Generally speaking I'd say that Ning is an upgrade over Leyan overall but I think they're closer than people seem to want to admit because one was the jungler during a time of transition and relative turmoil for Invictus (Leyan this Summer with all the lineup changes constantly) while the other was the MVP of the World Championships in 2018.

(excuse my terrible editing, numbers from Gol.GG)


Look at the chart above and tell me which jungler is which. This information was taken from the entire year worth of stats for all three junglers. It's not always a great measure of a jungler to look at their stats. I'll admit there is always a ton of noise in the metrics and statistics for junglers because the position is a lot of outside the box things to track such as game situations, proximity, leverage, metagame and draft considerations, and stylistic tendencies but I just wanted to illustrate something. The first is Ning for the entire calendar year of 2019, Spring, Summer, MSI, playoffs, and his three games at this tournament. The second is Leyan, who admittedly has a rather small sample size and was mostly dealing with a lot of lineup changes. The third is Tarzan. Again numbers aren't a great thing to measure junglers by because they're the most unique position to their team but I thought these told a rather compelling story. Not only do I think the Ning/Leyan differential is being a bit overexaggerated because of something we're going to talk about next but I also think the difference between both of them and Tarzan is pretty huge.

The third is bias based on past results which somewhat explains both of the previous points. Griffin are being underpriced because "they choke." Invictus are being overpriced because they brought the band back together and won a three games. Don't get me wrong, Invictus' lineup was the highest variance aspect our evaluation for this team heading into the tournament. All I'm saying is that I think we all might have put a little too much weight on it.

I usually can't stand the whole transitive comparison style of analysis but it's rather interesting to give at least some perspective in this case. You've heard me preach the small sample size argument but let's just do a little bit of a thought experiment on the transitive comparison of teams that people like to meme on but a lot of people actually tend to use. What's more impressive: whooping G2 twice and getting whooped once or losing a fairly close game to DAMWON and whooping Liquid once? I'd put more weight on the G2 wins. Another transitive hypothetical. Do you think Griffin is a stronger team than DAMWON? Obviously there are stylstic and matchup dependent considerations but I'd say Griffin are definitely a stronger team. How about your thoughts on G2? Was G2 a championship favorite for you? They certainly were and still are for me. I know getting out with a #1 seed doesn't define you as a truly superior team in a small sample size but given what we see now with the "Return of the Korean Teams" who all attained #1 seeds out of groups shouldn't we be a little bit more impressed with Griffin's 28-10 overall match record? That includes the two finals losses to SKT. The LCK was ridiculously competitive and reinvented itself this year and Griffin still put up those results. Just some food for thought.
The more I research and analyze this matchup the more I like Griffin. Even a few days ago when we recorded The Gold Card Pocast I was of the mindset that this line was too large even if I liked Griffin to win thinking that it should be closer to even money, maybe something like Griffin -120 / Invictus +100 or something like that. After rewatching a lot of the group stage matchups over again and going back even further to watch some previous playoff matches from these two squads to get a more in depth look at how they tend to handle things in longer series I've somewhat reversed my initial take on this matchup.

Invictus still look like they're playing a more standardized style even with Ning at jungle which is to say that they didn't change up their approach too much. It's possible that's because of the short time frame or their philosophy on playing best of ones or a scouting decision based on their opponents but I don't think we should automatically assume things are drastically different with Ning in. Is he an upgrade? Yes. I discussed this above. Generally I think Ning knows how to get his incredibly talented solo lanes ahead better than Leyan does and that's one of the calling cards for Invictus but the uptempo, timing-based skirmishing we saw from last year and Spring's version of Invictus doesn't appear to be the direction they're taking. 

We've talked about how Invictus had to change to accomodate all of the roster changes. It was one of the reasons I didn't have them getting out of this group. They no longer had that intangible. Without their blazing fast pace to get an edge it was hard for me to consider them that much different than any of the other top teams. In other words they were a more homogenized team. It's impressive that they were still a world class team but when you have players this good it's not at all surprising. All of this could change because these players and this team are extremely good but I'm willing to bet that in a single week that Invictus aren't just going to morph into the team they were in Spring this year or at Worlds last year and because of that we shouldn't treat them like the team they were last year but instead the team we've seen recently with maybe a bit of a bump up in performance

Griffin are what they are. They're doing the same things, playing the same style, playing at the same level they have been. Griffin aren't doing anything that they haven't been doing all year long in the LCK. Going into the tournament the only concerns people had were how they'd respond on their first World stage and how'd they'd handle the more unique and wild teams like G2. Again, it's a small sample size but I think they've answered both of those questions so I see absolutely no reason not to consider them one of the best teams in this tournament now. What more does this team need to do? For me it's nothing. I'm convinced.

I could go into the X's and O's of this matchup but we talked a lot about the matchups that were intriguing on the podcast this week and this has gone on quite long anyway. TheShy vs Sword/Doran is the one in favor of Invictus it's just a matter of "by how much" and Tarzan against Ning/Leyan is the one in favor of Griffin. Griffin are a stronger macro team and make fewer mistakes. Invictus are an incredibly good team fighting team with exceptional laners. We're also going to get to see two of the best players on the planet in in their positions in Chovy and Rookie battle it out in the mid lane. The matchups are compelling.

At the end of the day, having watched every single game from both of these teams this year, many of them multiple times I'd say Griffin are the better team by quite a bit. Going into this tournament I would have said Griffin by a decent margin but I wanted to see how they'd perform on a big stage like the World Championships. They've answered those questions for me. I'm not saying Invictus are a bad team just that Griffin are a better, and more importantly, more consistent team. I mentioned earlier that Griffin are what they are. They aren't doing anything different and they're smashing. Invictus are still a world class team but they aren't the same team we saw in Spring or even at MSI. If we had that Invictus vs Griffin I'd think they're more stylistically equipped to deal with Griffin's by the book, technique perfect approach but I'm not sure if this Invictus has the same weapons to attack with despite having the same names.

Unless you think Griffin suddenly turn into a pumpkin AND Invictus elevate from the level they showed in group stage then I don't see how you don't have Griffin winning this series. I'm saying it's going to require both of those things to happen for Invictus to win this. Could it happen? Absolutely but I'm betting on consistency. Like I said before, I've reversed course on this in the past few days where I was looking to bet Invictus because I had these two teams similarly rated and liked the value of the underdog. I now think Invictus are definitely the underdog and that Griffin have shown more reasons to be the favorite in this matchup. This Griffin team is simply too good. Invictus are going to have to get them out of their comfort zone and I don't think they're equipped to do that in their current form. If G2, perhaps the best team of all time to get you out of your comfort zone, struggled to do that then how much more likely is Invictus to do that? I'd wager not at all.

It's very rare that I have this much of a change of heart in such a short time but I've spent a lot of time combing over VODs and just thinking about this matchup in the past few days. Admittedly Griffin are one of my favorite teams as well so perhaps there's some level of bias here but I'm going with Griffin to win this series and not only that but I'm going a step further and going with Griffin to win this entire tournament. This team is an absolute machine. They're the closest thing I've ever seen to a supercomputer like DotA 2's Open AI team. They do everything exactly how you're supposed to every single time and in so many different scenarios. I've gone on record saying that in the more traditional, controlled style of League of Legends, that this is the single best team that I've ever seen and I still think that. You have to get creative and think outside the box or you're simply not going to beat them and even then you still have to execute at such a ridiculously high level AND do that over a five game series in this case.

I also look at the overall level of their region and competition. I've been preaching that "Korea is back" all year and, at least so far, that appears to be the case. Griffin hold a 3-1 match score and a 6-2 game score against DAMWON who just gave Invictus a lot of trouble. Again, transitive property doesn't always apply but stylistically DAMWON and Invictus are more similar than not and are constructed in much the same way. Canyon has also been playing at an unbelievably high level in this tournament and Ning/Leyan have yet to show me anything remotely close to that. Griffin also have side selection and could potentially dictate the intra-series metagame with that for an edge.

I've gone on long enough... As always tail at your own risk but I'm convinced. Call me a homer but I'm putting a little extra money where my mouth is on the future. Consider it "recreational."

 Griffin in four. Griffin to win the world championship.


Moneyline: Griffin -145 (4 units)(5Dimes)

Map Spread: Griffin -1.5 maps @ +150 (1 unit)(Nitrogen)


Future: Griffin to win Worlds @ +700 (2.5 units)(Nitrogen)



---------------------------------------

FunPlus Phoenix -140 (-1.5 @ +130, -2.5 @ +355)
vs
Fnatic +120 (+1.5 @ -160, +2.5 @ -490)

Kill Spread: -2.5 @ -117 / +2.5 @ -108

Kill Total: Over/Under 28.5


Another incredibly fascinating matchup that I think will be a much different looking series than our first one tomorrow. One way it is similar to our first match, however, is that we have two teams that looked very different from week one to week two.

Fnatic honestly looked the worst I've seen them since semi-meaningless regular season matches in the LEC this Summer in week one and I was legitimately concerned that we could be in for a let down. They started week two with another somewhat shakey performance against Clutch but did get the win before a decisive punishing of SKT followed by a win against RNG. Personally I think they got a little bit of help from some poor execution by SKT and one of the worst drafts of the tournament by RNG in the final game but guess what? Fnatic took care of business like they're supposed to in that spot.

FunPlus had a weird, flukey loss to JTeam in week one and a loss in an impressive showing by Splyce in week two but otherwise looked more or less like themselves. Intimidating, powerful, but very clumsy at times. I wouldn't say FunPlus underperformed drastically but it did take them a little while to find their footing in the group stage. I think they have some room to improve but it looks like they've figured out how they want to draft now and I'd expect a slightly better performance in a best of five.

I personally think Fnatic could improve a lot upon what we saw in group stage. I think this was a poor showing relative to what I expected from this team coming into the tournament. If you think they improve then I absolutely love Fnatic in this spot even if FunPlus cleans things up as well. Fnatic are a more versatile, flexible team that can play a variety of strategies and aren't afraid to mix it up with a team like FunPlus that loves taking the fight to you. They're comfortable doing that.

I said on the podcast this week that I'd be likely sticking to underdogs for the value in a bunch of matchups that I found to be somewhat closer to 50/50 but we spent a lot of time chopping up this matchup specifically. I think a lot of capping this series comes down to what you put more weight on.

If you think Fnatic can play closer to their ceiling then I absolutely love Fnatic in this spot. They're a more versatile, stronger uptempo team than Splyce who seemed to give FunPlus issues in the early game and I think the'yre a significantly worse team than Fnatic even with the weaker performance vs elevated performance when comparing the two. If you think FunPlus can figure out drafts that will work favorably for them with side selection advantage than I think the potentially massive mismatch in the mid lane could prove fatal for Fnatic. Remember that FunPlus were one of the few teams at this tournament that preferred red side and counterpicking all year long and played red in nearly two thirds of their games. Could be an interesting wrinkle to this series.

Historically I favor versatility in strategy and draft over raw ability which would favor Fnatic in this spot. I also favor fading teams that I think performed worse than their results (Fnatic). That's the strength of film review. I also like to break ties in favor of the team with the best player in the match provided they're equipped to succeed (FunPlus/Doinb). There is a lot of conflicting ideas in this match. I think Fnatic when playing closer to their ceiling win this match more often than not but I'm not entirely convinced that they'll "clutch" it out, a concept I discussed earlier as overexaggerated. Yes the European teams tend to show up and elevate but I'm not banking on it. There's also the angle of FunPlus having a history of struggling in best of fives. Similarly to Griffin they have "choke artist" on the bottom of their name tag too for a lot of people.

FunPlus haven't looked great, and they even struggled against an inferior European opponent. I think they're exploitable in the draft and could potentially be punished for it, as a matter of fact Fnatic likely will punish them, they're really good at that. The difference to me is that FunPlus are really good at playing their way out of bad situations with brute force and I think they have enough of an edge in those types of scenarios that it's worth noting. I also think they've learned a lot about how the rest of the world wants to attack their strategies and will likely have adjustments in mind.

Logically, Fnatic is the side to take in this spot. Good odds, should improve on relatively poor group stage performance, more versatile. FunPlus struggle against more well rounded, intelligent teams that can punish their linear approach and when Fnatic are playing at their ceiling they are one of those teams. The thing with Fnatic this tournament to me is that it looks like they're playing really impulsively to me and I don't think that's a good thing against FunPlus. I also think they're being a tad overrated based on recent performance. I highlighted and extensively went into it on Twitter that, while they deserve credit for punishing the mistakes and being where they're supposed to be, that SKT lost that more than Fnatic won it, they could have easily lost to Clutch, and RNG drafted themselves into a loss. I know these things aren't as binary as that but for the sake of brevity let's just say that I think Fnatic sort of got away with murder in week two. Does that mean they don't deserve to be here? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I think it's a testament to how good this team can be if they got to quarterfinals at Worlds while performing relatively poorly.

I think the most interesting element of this series is FunPlus' ability to brute force their way out of bad situations versus Fnatic's excellent closing speed and strategic versatility. It's almost like a bull and a matador. Maybe not quite a matador, Fnatic aren't the most tactful at times either but you get the point. The thing is sometimes the bull wins.

When you're handicapping a team like FunPlus you're operating in somewhat existential territory at times. This team, much like Invictus actually, does a lot of things incorrectly but they manage to find a way often through raw talent. I think it's partially just the nature of the LPL's style but I'd compare the LPL and Europe as kindred spirits. I see this series ending up more like a scrappy brawl than a tactical masterpiece. Should Fnatic have the edge strategically? Yes. Are they going to do everything they're supposed to be doing? I'm betting against it. I think Fnatic's biggest weakness as a team is also somewhat of a strength for them and that's that they sometimes lose discipline and get distracted, particularly against good opponents. They're capable of closing as well as anybody, that's one of their strengths but it's often a complete mess until they get to that point. This is where FunPlus thrives. When it's rough and tumble, bar fight League of Legends I want FunPlus in my corner.

I want to like Fnatic but I just don't trust what I've seen from them. It's a bit of a soul read but I know exactly what to expect from FunPlus and I don't know what to expect from Fnatic. I was high enough on FunPlus to put them in my "elite" top three teams tier with SKT and G2 before this tournament knowing full well that they're aren't nearly as fundamentally sound on the map, strategically diverse, or that experienced on this stage. If I had to redo my tier list I'd probably knock them out of that tier and into the next tier with the rest of the top eight or nine BUT they're still there. I just think Fnatic are going to get dragged into a fight that they're capable, but not likely to win. Specifically I'm looking at the mid lane matchup and it's just extremely difficult to get over the potential mismatch there.

This is going to be a long, slugfest of a series. We might break a record for total kills in a best of five. By the end of this match we're going to have two battered and beaten fighters. Blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul. I'm following my gut a bit more than usual on this one but I want the bigger, badder, combat-hardened guy in these types of battles and to me that's FunPlus.


I'm staying away from the maps total in this but if you are comfortable laying bigger lines I think the OVER 3.5 maps @ -290 is more or less a lock. I won't list it here since I'm not on it but just thought it'd be worth considering for those unopposed to laying that kind of chalk.

Moneyline: FunPlus Phoenix -140 (2 units)

Over/Under: Map 1 Total Kills OVER 28.5 @ -120 (1 unit)

Over/Under: Map 2 Total Kills OVER 28.5 @ -120 (1 unit)

Over/Under: Map 3 Total Kills OVER 28.5 @ -120 (1 unit)

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Parlays:

A couple light, recreational parlays. 

Saturday Parlay (2): Griffin ML + FunPlus ML @ +190 (0.25 units)

Weekend Exacta Parlay (4):
Griffin ML + FunPlus ML + G2 ML + SKT -2.5 maps @ +617 (0.1 unit)


Saturday, October 19, 2019

October 20th: Worlds 2019 - Main Event Group Stage Day 8

Day 7 Takeaways:



1)  Clutch have really impressed me.
I'm not saying they're a top eight contender or anything like that but they did significantly better than I thought they would especially after week one. Clutch are philosophically a really intelligent team. They understand win conditions, what they have to do to set them up, and know how to perform assignments but in week one a lot of individual errors, likely due to nerves, helped blow games open for their enemies. They got rid of most of those in week two and really performed well regardless of the results. They're still ultimately limited by their players who aren't quite up to the level of the elite international competition but they look like an excellent team and I hope they stay together for NA next year because I feel pretty strongly that they could improve and challenge for a title.

2) RNG's lack of versatility was exposed but not in the way we thought.
I said going into the tournament that I'm including RNG in my top teams because they have solid fundamentals, great discipline, and some particularly outstanding players but that I was concerned for not only their lack of flexibility in the current meta and how it could limit their ceiling. The draft againt Fnatic in the last game of today wasn't as much a lack of versaility as it was just a straight up poor draft to me. RNG's inability to play any kind of uptempo strategies as well as unwillingness to play any of the mage supports really hindered their possibilities in drafts. I'm not saying that would have fixed their problems entirely but it would have relieved a lot of pressure. Any team that opted for stronger scaling had a good shot against RNG. Fnatic straight up outplayed RNG but their draft did them absolutely no favors. It's a bummer to see great players go out like that and I think we as viewers were denied a great clash between two great teams because of a terrible draft.

3) It wasn't how I thought it would happen at all, but Fnatic got it done.
I was actively Tweeting quite a bit about the FNC/SKT game. The long story short is that I thought SKT really botched a lot of their early plays and it wasn't particularly through Fnatic outplaying as much as it was SKT failing to execute. That said, Fnatic were exactly where they needed to be to make the counter plays and punish and that on it's own deserves praise. It's really quite incredible that after a borderline awful, clown fiesta of a performance that looked an awful lot like the week one tilt between Clutch and Fnatic again, that Fnatic were immediately able to turn it around into this performance against SKT and then play, in my opinion, their strongest game of the tournament against RNG (although RNG had that bad draft). It's impressive. These European teams are always so resilient.

Am I willing to say this is the Fnatic I thought we'd see? I'm still skeptical. I still don't think this team has performed to their highest capacity at all this tournament and there is a lot to work on but they got over this hurdle and it wouldn't surprise me to see a better Fnatic in best of fives.

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Worlds 2019 - Main Event Group Stage Day 8

(listed odds are from Nitrogen/5Dimes, obviously shop around as availability varies)

AHQ eSports +550 vs Invictus Gaming -800

This is a much tougher slate than the previous days at first glance partially because of the parity in this group but also because Invictus have announced that they will be subbing in Ning for Leyan which will assemble the world championship lineup again for the first time since their LPL playoff upset loss to LNG (Snake) on August 23rd. There's been a ton of speculation about this whole scenario. A lot of how you treat Invictus tomorow depends on how you think they'll look with Ning back in the lineup. Part of what I didn't like about IG with any subs was that they didn't look like IG anymore. With the subs in they struggled and eventually just stopped playing the blistering uptempo, skirmish style that won IG a world championship and a Spring split in the LPL this year. For lack of better terms, Invictus had to start playing vanilla. As we saw in week one, they're clearly still a great team, this collection of talent is going to succeed to a certain degree with pretty much any jungler but they lacked that intangible IG factor.

So where does that leave us? If you think Invictus with Ning can get back on the proverbial bicycle again just like old times and nothing has changed and we see the IG we saw six months ago at MSI then I love their chances. If you think this is just going to be Invictus with Ning but playing the style they've been playing recently then I actually think they're exactly what they are now maybe a tad more consistent because of Leyan's shortcomings. But there's another possibility and it's the one I think is most likely....

We've talked a lot about how the world championship winning "Invictus Style" is predicated on razor thin margins. Timing based routes that lead to skirmishes, priority plays with small windows to get in and get out, and a general switch up of drafts approach. The subs couldn't do this because it requires extremely precise micromanagement and team chemistry and communication. I'm sure Invictus have been practicing with Ning but to expect him to come back onto the main stage after eight weeks on the bench and for this team to suddenly morph back into that lineup we saw is a tad unreasonable. These are exceptional players, and maybe confidence has a lot to do with it. Maybe the rest of Invictus will suddenly "turn on" and we see the Invictus of old. I'm not buying it as automatically as everyone else. It's extremely difficult to switch up like that without a lot of practice and experience.

All of this is to say that I'm holding my horses on Invictus. I just don't know what we're going to be looking at here but we'll know right away in this game tomorrow. If we see Invictus attempting to operate at the breakneck pace we know them for and failing you'll know to fade or look for the switch back to Leyan. If we see them just playing the same style but with Ning in then we'll know how to proceed there too. Gun to my head I'd say the most likely outcome we see tomorrow is Ning to come in and for Invictus to play exactly like we've been seeing the last two months. Does that mean Invictus is going to lose? Not at all. Invictus playing "vanilla" is still more than capable of beating some of the best teams in the world with their talent alone I just think it removes the thing that made Invictus themselves. Vanilla Invictus is a top eight team in the world. "Old" Invictus is a top two or three team in the world. That's the difference I'm discussing here.

I'm passing this game but I'd remind you all that even when Invictus were "Old" Invictus they were one of the highest variance good teams and would frequently punt games to bad teams by flipping tails on too many coins or just being overzealous and arrogant. I don't think that happens here unless they give AHQ Qiyana but I'll discuss that more in the next matches.

No wager


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Team Liquid +135 vs DAMWON Gaming -150

Liquid looked pretty good the first time around in this matchup and whether or not you think DAMWON was a bit arrogant in the draft you can't doubt Liquid's execution. To be perfectly honest with you I'm not sure how this goes tomorrow. I almost fundamentally want to bet Liquid as underdogs because I think they get out of this group but I'm not entirely sure who and when they beat or if they even beat anyone besides AHQ because this group is extremely difficult to call. Just so I'm clear, I think we'll be seeing DAMWON And Liquid get out of this group but I'm just not sure how and when I'm simply breaking ties in favor of Liquid over Invictus currently. Liquid to me actually looked worse than I anticipated besides the match against DAMWON and similarly to Fnatic, I think could look much better in week two after a slightly underwhelming performance. I know it sounds kind of crazy to say they had an underwhelming performance in week one when they decisively beat DAMWON but I thought they looked "off" in the other two games. Best of ones drive me nuts but that's a different topic....

I'm firing half a unit on Liquid at +135 (Nitrogen). I legitimately have a lot of these games as 50/50's tomorrow so I'll be betting the dogs. Quite frankly I have no idea exactly how this group will play out but I think there's going to be value on the underdogs in a situation where it's more or less three different close to 50/50 matchups.

Moneyline: Liquid +135 (0.5 units) (Nit)

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Team Liquid -450 vs AHQ eSports +360

This was a wild match the first time around and I'm not only a fan of fading the first result but also sincerely think that Qiyana is "The Upset Queen." She's been a huge part of weaker teams "staying competitive" or starting strong or even stealing wins against better teams all tournament long. AHQ got blue side first pick twice in the first round robin, including against Liquid where they first picked Qiyana but they'll only have it once this time around. I know red side has had the superior win rate this tournament including a crazy nine games in a row run from yesterday into today but I think from blue side we won't be seeing Qiyana and it will instead fall on lower tier "counter" picks which have faired far less successful in creating chaos in this tournament. In so many words I'm saying AHQ only looked decent last week because they racked up some kills off of a broken Qiyana in one game. They had a combined ten kills in their other two games. Liquid are smart and aren't going to give away Qiyana, hell they might first pick it themselves BUT they'll also be able to adjust to what AHQ throw at them. Liquid's strength is their versatility.

Give me the under here for sure. This number is cooked up from the first meeting. We'll see a more controlled, slower paced game here as Liquid chokes out AHQ.

Over/Under: Total kills UNDER 26.5 @ -130 (2 units)

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DAMWON Gaming +110 vs Invictus Gaming -130

I talked about Invictus ad nauseum and already indicated my intended strategy and picks to get out of this group. I'll be on the underdog here for half a unit on principle.

Moneyline: DAMWON +110 (0.5 units)

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DAMWON Gaming -740 vs AHQ eSports +520

As I previously mentioned about the under in AHQ games. This will be another.

Over/Under: Total kills UNDER 24.5 @ -125 (1 unit)

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Invictus Gaming -170 vs Team Liquid +150

Another underdog. Highly competitive group with three evenly matched teams I'm just taking the dogs on principle. I will ask, however, what on earth does Liquid need to do to become closer to even money against this team? They're only 3-4 in their last seven games against IG including a 3-1 series win at MSI. Guess people think the Liquid loss against Leyan was rough. Fair enough, principle still stands for me.

Moneyline: Liquid +150 (0.5 units)

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Parlays:

none for now, possibly later