Tuesday, September 29, 2015

2015 World Championship Group Stage Predictions

                With the 2015 World Championships only days away it's time for me to lay out my predictions for the group stage now that we have some more information on who is playing, who is not, and have had some more time with the metagame (at least in solo queue). Before diving into the prognostication I'd like to make a couple of points about the current state of the game, how it'll affect certain teams and players, and why all of this matters when making predictions.

                When any game or competitive activity has been going long enough the level of competition at the highest level tends to grow closer. With more resources, more time, and more experience the overall player base improves at the game. The same applies to the professional scene. This means that the worst teams at Worlds this year are significantly better than the worst teams last year or the year before even if their record doesn't show it at the end of group stages. It also means that the best teams aren't as far apart as say SK Telecom was during Season 3. Try to keep this in mind when considering my rankings. When I say a team is the best and a heavy favorite to win the tournament it doesn't mean that the others don't have a chance or "are bad" or anything like that, simply that I feel one team is a heavy favorite.

                Another thing that happens when the gap between the highest and lowest closes is that the game, in general, becomes significantly more team play focused. "But Gelati, hasn't it always been a team game?" Yes it has but the point I'm trying to make is that the game is significantly less about individual skills or outplays and more about team outplays and macro play. With a lot of the changes and popular strategies like lane swaps developing to a highly efficient level in the past couple of seasons the impact of a bonafide superstar, while still important, is much less so than in previous times. In other words, when everyone is incredible you need to be truly unbelievable to make a real difference. Because of this I placed much more weight on excellent team play, adaptation, and strategic diversity than I did on individual talent.

                While I could start an entirely conversation about it, like it or not, this tournament is going to be played on 5.18 and there are a lot of drastic changes to what you've seen all year. I'll do my best to factor in these changes but the fact is, some teams adapt well and others don't. Some teams may have been completely dismantled by this patch and others might have been reinvigorated. There's a lot of variance here and a lot of people don't like it but I did my best to factor this into my thoughts.

 With all of these factors taken into account to the best of my ability here are my 2015 World Championship Group Stage team breakdowns and predictions.

Group A - CLG, yoe Flash Wolves, Koo Tigers, Pain Gaming

KOO Tigers (Korea #2 seed)

Members: Smeb, hojin (formerly Lee of Najin Black), Kuro, Pray, Gorilla, Wisdom (sub)

  • -          One of, if not the best shot calling team in the world.
  • -          Great sense of the macro game.
  • -          Have shown a propensity for coming up with unique and innovative team compositions to attack a new meta game

  • Subpar early game typically leaves them battling back from behind.
  • Shallow champion pool on Kuro who's best two champions (Viktor and Azir) were nerfed both directly and indirectly in recent patches.
  • Once teams figure out how to play against the specific team compositions they take a lot of time to readjust and come up with their next one. In a short tournament they may not have the time to adjust but at the same time other teams may not have time to figure them out.

Strongest Players:
  •  Smeb (world class): A diverse champion pool, stiff competition, and very consistent play tells us that Smeb is ready for the rigors of international play. May not be on a level as Duke, Ssumday, Zztai, or Flandre but is certainly close. 
  •  Gorilla (world class): Played incredibly well for Najin White Shield during their crazy gauntlet run to qualify with outstanding play on both Janna and Thresh. One could make an argument for Gorilla as the best support in the world.
  • Pray (world class): While he has his ups and downs the savvy veteran Pray has always shown well when it's crunch time. His top champions Twitch and Corki are trending up in strength in the current meta which could be a real boost.

The Breakdown:

                The biggest question mark is Kuro's champion pool. His strongest two champions Viktor and Azir have dropped out of the premium status (although still viable) and he's really only shown one "new" champion recently which is, surprisingly, Fizz. Top lane still holds the biggest impact in the current meta although some of that power has shifted to mid. Top is deep enough and Smeb has a diverse enough pool that you can't really ban him out. Pray has his premium picks but you can't really ban him out either and support doesn't look to be a focal point for bans for the most part this tournament. Teams should try to attack Kuro's pool in the draft with bans and counterpicks. The way to beat KOO is to not let the games go to the late game where they thrive and the best way to do that is to attack the shallow champion pool and not be distracted by their strong outer lanes. 

                KOO need to have one of their spicy meta defining compositions up their sleeve to have a shot at eclipsing the premium Chinese and Korean teams in the tournament but I still think they'll emerge with the first seed out of Group A. They're a group of very strong, experienced veterans that won't let the international stage get to them even if they've shown some low points this season. While I think the CLG and potentially Pain could produce some matchup issues because of their strong early game play I can't see them losing two games to any team in this group.

Their Competition:
  • vs CLG: This should be the worst matchup in the group for the Tigers. CLG excels at the early game which is where KOO struggles. CLG also has their strongest players in the same roles as KOO. I give a slight edge to KOO both strategically and individually even considering these potential mismatches. The pressure is on CLG to snowball and close because if they don't then KOO will take over the game with their excellent macro, shot calling, and team fighting. Slight edge to the Tigers and while I feel they're the better team I think CLG with their lineup issues resolved can likely snowball at least one of the games. 1 - 1
  •  vs yoe Flash Wolves: Flash Wolves absolutely need to find a way to hide Steak from Smeb while also enabling Maple and Karsa to put pressure on Kuro. While I can imagine a scenario where that happens I just don't feel it's likely. While I have much respect for the Flash Wolves I think KOO outclasses them enough for a 2 - 0.
  • vs Pain Gaming: As good as Mylon and Kami are they just don't stand up to the likes of the tried and tested Koreans. Should be an easy 2 - 0 for KOO.

Total Record: 5 - 1, 1st in Group A

Counter Logic Gaming (North American #1 Seed)

Members: ZionSpartan, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift, Aphromoo, Huhi (sub)

  •  Excellent early game both as individual lanes and as a team in lane swaps.
  •  Creative openings and fast push strategies. 
  •  Strong in all 3 lanes with diverse champion pools.

  • Tendancy to make critical mistakes in longer games
  •  Shallow champion pool on Xmithie. Will have to show more than Gragas and Ekko at highest levels of play.
  • Until very recently, have had troubles performing in high pressure situations. (READ: Choke artists)

Strongest Players
  •  Doublelift (world class): Doublelift quietly had the best season of his career in both results and statistics. Has shown proficiency on many champions in many styles all at a level that far exceeded his NA competition. Versatility, playmaking capability, excellent 2v2 laning, and experience (although not on the world stage) should combine nicely with a player that's hungry to prove people wrong.
  •  ZionSpartan:  Has always been a strong prospect and finally, this season, made it happen with a ton of domestic success. He's perhaps the most important player heading into a tournament where the top lane will dictate a lot of games but I'm skeptical of his ability to keep up with the  completely stacked pool of elite top laners that will be present.

The Breakdown:

                CLG broke the curse and they're finally here. Perhaps with the monkey off their back they can ride the morale wave into and through groups. While I don't think there will be a Super Bowl "hangover" type affect in this group I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a little "hey it's all just gravy now anyway" attitude either. They need to do what they do best which is excellent draft planning, early game scripts, and snowballing their games to decisive strategic victories. They have enough individual talent to at least keep up with MOST of the players in this group but what they don't have is something that worries me. CLG does NOT teamfight well. They do NOTmake sound strategic decisions in the mid and late game. They do NOT play well from behind. All of which makes this a pretty simple discussion. Can they get enough of a lead to make up for their discrepancies? My guess is that they will in a couple of games and they won't in others.                    

Their Competition
  • vs KOO: Much like I said for the KOO side, this is about the best possible matchup CLG could have drawn for a Korea or Chinese team. KOO's weaknesses lineup with CLG's strengths but I simply feel the players and overall teamwork on KOO will outclass them overall. 1 - 1 and if this happens to go to a tiebreaker I think KOO would take it.
  •  vs yoe Flash Wolves: Much like FW needs to do vs KOO they need to find a way to hide Steak from ZionSpartan. That being said I think Karsa is a significantly better jungler than Xmithie so CLG needs to not let his jungle pressure foil their strong early game which I honestly think will happen in one of these games. The Flash Wolves are an excellent team fighting and skirmishing team, something CLG has trouble with and combined with the playmaking of Karsa I think they can stall CLG's early game long enough to win the race in at least one game. 1 - 1 but this will likely comedown to a tiebreaker. Honestly the tiebreak is a coinflip to me. If CLG tilts from a Pain loss or rallies will be a big factor but I think FW and CLG are pretty evenly matched. If I had to bet money on it I'd say CLG takes the tiebreaker.
  • vs Pain Gaming: I'm going to catch a lot of crap for this but I think Pain take a game off CLG and here's why. CLG have shown a propensity for choking in high pressure situations. CLG, much like Alliance last year, will play Pain as their last game in groups. Assuming they got 1-1 with both KOO and Flash Wolves this will become a must win game to advance. Psychologically this is a really favorable spot for Pain who have absolutely nothing to lose and can play as such. All of this is going against CLG without even factoring in that Pain are actually a good team. I feel they're the strongest IWC to ever attend Worlds and EXPECT them to win at LEAST one game. Kami would be a high end LCS mid laner and Mylon I feel is on par with the top LCS top laners (like Zion). This has upset written all over it. 1 - 1

Total Record: 3 - 3, win in tiebreaker vs Flash Wolves to advance with 2nd in Group A

yoe Flash Wolves (LMS / Taiwan #2 Seed)

Members: Steak, Karsa, Maple, SwordArt, NL and Kkramer splitting ADC duties?

  •  Experience together as a team since Gamania Bears in Season 3.
  •  Great skirmishing and solid large team fighting
  •  Incredibly strong jungle pressure creates early game snowballs with which they tend to hammer home victories with good map movement and vision control

  • While not weak, laning phase rarely develops explosive leads on an international level.
  • Rely heavily on Karsa to jumpstart the game. Typically fail when that doesn't happen (think Team Impulse and Rush).

Strongest Players
  •  Karsa (world class): Karsa is, by a pretty large margain, the best jungler in this group. He plays a variety of styles and champions but often accomplishes the same goal; getting his team rolling. Would almost certainly be the best jungler if he came to the west and would warrant a spot on most of the top LPL teams as well. 
  •  SwordArt (world class): SwordArt is simply one of the most underrated players by Western fans who typically don't watch the LMS or previously the GPL. Creative, incredibly high in game intelligence, mechanics, and the experience to boot make SwordArt the complete package. Maybe not quite the beasts that Gorilla and Pyl are, he's on a similar level to Yellowstar and Meiko. 
  • Maple: While he may not be one of the premium mid laners in a tournament full of them, he's got experience and playmaking potential. Still a top player looking to make a statement before a likely retirement. 

The Breakdown:

                Flash Wolves are a solid, veteran team that had a relatively disappointing performance at IEM Katowice earlier this year. They play really well with a lead showing an ability to consistently close games with even the slightest advantage but they've also shown an inability to make comebacks when they get behind. They're actually quite similar to CLG in that they tend to push the advantages well but instead of relying on a solid game plan and excellent lane swap strategies like CLG does, Flash Wolves leave it all in the hands of their superstar jungler Karsa. I can't say enough about how much of a beast this guy can be. He might be able to single handedly carry this team out of groups. I don't particularly feel they are so far outclassed individually in this group like a lot of people do but their inability to make comebacks is concerning. Flash Wolves are actually a very strong macro team with decisive veteran shotcalling and great vision control. Unfortunately that's only when they're ahead which is what I feel will be their downfall.

Their Competition
  • vs KOO: If Karsa is going to make his case for the rest of the world it'll have to be here. KOO tend to get behind early and if Karsa can get his team rolling I think there is a shot they can steal a game here. With that said, I doubt it'll happen. 0 - 2
  •  vs CLG: Similar team with a far inferior jungler but a superior top laner. This series depends solely on who gets the early lead. I happen to favor game scripts and planning over individual skill that early on. See also what I wrote for CLG about this matchup. 1 - 2 loss in tiebreaker
  • vs Pain Gaming: I actually think Pain could take a game here too which would likely boost CLG directly into groups without a tiebreaker. While I feel the veteran experience and stronger competition make this a 2 - 0 for Flash Wolves, I wouldn't be surprised if Pain takes a win. 2 - 0.

Total Record: 3 -3 with a loss in the tiebreaker vs CLG for 3rd in Group A

Pain Gaming (International Wildcard: Brazil Seed)

Members: Mylon, SirT, Kami, brTT, Dioud (former aAa)

  •  Strong sense of carry mindest in top and mid lane players. Ability to create large advantges out of small ones.
  • Allocation of resources, team philosophy, and player champion pools all align very well with the expected metagame. 
  • "Nothing to lose" mentality heading into the tournament. (IWC teams typically struggle at Worlds)

  •  Tend to lose control of games, even the ones they're winning sometimes. 
  • Rarely punished for their mistakes. Will have to adjust to this happening against good teams.
  • Play a very high risk style in attempts to snowball that can often fail, and likely will against most international competition.
Strongest Players
  •  Mylon: While he might not be a world class player at a tournament that is completely stacked in the top lane but certainly better than some of his peers. Large champion pool, carry mindset, and, much like Kami, a player that very aggressively pushes his advantages. Sometimes that backfires but often it can create huge advantages. Meta should favor him and his style. For comparison, would probably be as good or better than ZionSpartan and Impact in NA and around players like Soaz and Cabochard in EU.
  • Kami:  This guy is a straight up playmaker. Very gifted mechanically, instinctive approach to the game, pushes his advantages very aggressively compared to most. Will often buy Mejai's and play champions that snowball incredibly hard. While I assume he'll be a bit of a boom / bust candidate the guy has the skills to tilt other players and create immense advantages seemingly out of nowhere. For comparison, would probably slot into the top 4 mid laners in NA or EU LCS.

The Breakdown:

                Pain are the strongest international wild card team to ever attend worlds in my opinion. They absolutely bodied their qualifier and much improved region on the backs of Mylon and Kami. For comparison they're both high level LCS players but playing in a weaker (but not by as much as people think) region. While Pain lack the macro game and experience that a team like Flash Wolves has or the international level teamfighting and shotcalling that the best teams have, they certainly have a handful of high quality playmakers, and, perhaps the most important aspect of all, NOTHING TO LOSE. This team has enough skill to upset somebody. They're significantly better than the Kabuum roster that upset an Alliance team that had just scored a perfect game on Korea's Najin White Shield. They're better than some LCS teams and have a couple of players that would likely be at the top of their position in those regions. The rest of the roster, while not on the level of Mylon and Kami, are certainly not bad either. I EXPECT Pain to take at least one game this year at worlds. I think there's a decent chance they could take 2 but realistically this is still an IWC team that suffers from the same problems all IWC teams do. Inferior competition. 

Their Competition
  • vs KOO: The Tigers simply outclass you in every possible way. maybe 2% chance of Kami just going crazy on Kuro? I doubt it though because Kuro has made a career out of "not losing" to far superior mid laners. 0 - 2
  •  vs CLG: This is where Pain get to reinact the legendary Kabuum upset from last year. See what I wrote for this in the CLG section. 1 - 1
  • vs Pain Gaming: There is an outside chance that Mylon just runs wild and Pain rally to steal a game here in a matchup that is probably closer than people think. I still think it's more likely FW take both. 0 - 2

Total Record: 1 - 5 for 4th place in Group A

Group B - Fnatic, Invictus Gaming, AHQ e-Sports, Cloud 9

Invictus Gaming (Chinese #3 Seed)

Members: Zzitai, KaKao, Rookie, Kid, Kitties, Time (sub)

  • Very strong, versatile solo laners.
  • Kakao is the best jungler in the world
  • Press advantages very aggressively off of strong early game pressure.

  • Inconsistent. 
  • Bottom lane is comparitively weak.
  • Team fighting leaves something to be desired.
Strongest Players
  •  KaKao (world class): Kakao is the best jungler in the world, the best jungler in the tournament, and has no real competition at this tournament other than Clearlove. His versatility and in game decision making are incredible and he seemingly always finds the weak spot in the armor in other teams.He provides a huge advantage and if Invictus does well it will be on his back.
  • Rookie (world class): Prior to leaving for China, Rookie was one of the top mid laners in Korea. He's versatile, proactive on the map, and punishes mistakes better than almost anybody besides maybe Faker. You could make an argument for him being the 2nd best mid on the planet and in a meta where the mid champion pool is pretty wide open he'll thrive and create opportunities for IG.
  • Zzitai (world class): The veteran top lane carry is poised to make a massive impact at worlds this year. The meta is heavily in his favor and he is among the top players at his position in the world. He also has the best jungler in the world to help him.

The Breakdown:

                Invictus are heavily reliant on their solo lanes and jungler to win games because their weak bot lane is just too unreliable. I made a point to discuss the concept of teamwork being more valuable than individual play than it has in previous seasons heading into this tournament but I think IG are one of the exceptions. Their individual talent at top, jungle, and mid are just so unbelievably strong that they will likely overpower this group in the draft and early in games to the point where it'll be difficult to make a comeback. That being said, this team is a bit two-faced. They can look like the best team on the planet and immediately afterwards look like a solo queue game. I'm not sure if it's a patch dependent problem or a psychological one but I think Invictus are coming into this tournament playing the best they have all year and with superstar players where it matters and their weakest players (bot lane) where it matters least in the current meta, I think they're poised for a good run at this tournament.

Their Competition
  • vs Fnatic: I think Fnatic can come close to matching Invictus in the top and mid lanes but Kakao is a huge advantage over ReignOver, but Fnatic also has the significantly stronger bottom lane. I think Rekkles and Yellowstar will make enough of a difference in at least one game and this should be a pretty close 1-1.
  •  vs AHQ: I feel that AHQ match up particularly well with IG. Their solo lanes should be able to hold their own even if they're not quite better, and Mountain is a solid, underrated jungler. I think An is a significantly better ADC than Kid is and even in an underpowered ADC role I think enough of a difference can come from the support and ADC play and Invictus' tendancy to be inconsistent that AHQ should be able to take a game. 1-1
  • vs Cloud 9: IG are just too damn good individually for Cloud 9 to keep up. I have a lot of respect for Hai's miracle playcalling ability but in a meta where ADC has a limited impact I'm not sure Sneaky and Lemon can carry hard enough against IG's weak bot lane. 2-0

Total Record: 4 - 2  and win in tiebreaker vs Fnatic for 1st place in Group B

Fnatic (European #1 Seed)

Members: Huni, ReignOver, Febiven, Rekkles, Yellowstar, Shylaya (sub)

  •  Strong sense of carry mindest in top and mid lane players. Ability to create large advantges out of small ones.
  • Allocation of resources, team philosophy, and player champion pools all align very well with the expected metagame. 
  • Well coached with good adjustments from game to game.
  • Great playmakers in every lane and the ability to make comebacks.

  • Often get behind in games and have to comeback with superior team fighting or skirmishing.
  • Rarely punished for their mistakes domestically which could tilt them when it happens at the highest level.
  • ReignOver never needed to do much because his lanes weren't challenged domestically.
Strongest Players
  •  Huni (world class): I actually do think Huni is a world class player. He hasn't had the chance to show it yet and his competition domestically is rather weak but I think he'll earn his stripes at Worlds this year. He has a massive champion pool, pushes advantages very aggressively, and more or less carried his team even with 2-3 bans thrown at him every single game. I don't think he's quite on the level of some of the other top laners at worlds and he'll probably have trouble against Zzitai and Ziv who are both in his group but that doesn't make him not a world class player at his position. It'll be interesting to see how he handles some real competition.
  • Febiven (world class): I'm off and on with how I feel about Febiven. In much the same way as Huni he wasn't really tested domestically (although mid lane in Europe is significantly better than top lane). He showed at MSI that he could hang with the best (Faker) and although I feel that was sort of a fluke event, I will give respect to it because of how rare it actually is. I think Febiven and Huni are both world class players but I'm less sure about them adapting to superior competition.
  • Yellowstar (world class): He's been around forever. He's played multiple roles, carried multiple players, makes plays, and and shown time and time again that he's one of the best supports in the world and, in all likelihood, the best Western player to ever play the game. Yellowstar has a chance to make a huge impact this year with the position being relatively weak in his group (Kiddies, Lemonnation, Albis/GreenTea) and if he can we could see Fnatic emerge first in their group.
  • Rekkles: I'm not going to give him the world class designation but he has experience and seems to have his head on correctly this year from a psychological standpoint. He can hang with the best but he doesn't really proactively take advantages and drive them home like the best players do.

The Breakdown:

                With Fnatic there is no question that they are a good team. It's not easy to go undefeated in any league no matter how weak. The question is just how much will their weak competition bring them down. Historically I'm the guy that would take a mid tier Korean team over anybody else in the world because the level of competition in Korea breeds stronger players and teams and this creates a level of consistency and tenacity that teams in weaker regions rarely show. While this strength of competition concept is something I normally adhere strongly to, and while I feel the West typically overrates their best teams going into international competitions, I actually do think the Fnatic is potentially the best chance the West will ever have at taking down a world championship. This team is the real deal. They've done pretty much everything they could possibly do to prove it. They lost two games in the entire Summer split, took two games off of SK Telecom (for my money the best team in the world), and have shown the ability to comeback even in games where they were losing. What else could you want? There is more, but realistically they've done everything they can possibly do to prove they're legit. The challenge is that this is a tough group with teams that can match them in positions they're strong at. AHQ and IG have world class junglers and tend to play around early leads very well which is something that Fnatic have not had to deal with domestically. Their tendency to get behind early in games could bite them because international level competition might not give you the same comeback opportunities as domestic teams did.

Their Competition
  • vs Invictus Gaming: As I said in the IG section, I think Yellowstar and Rekkles can create enough of a mismatch and the solo lanes can hold down the fort well enough to take advantage of IG's tendancy to be inconsistent to take a game. I think IG is the better team overall and that Kakao poses an even bigger matchup, but I think Fnatic can manage to take one. 1-1
  •  vs AHQ: AHQ, IG, and Fnatic are all similarly built teams so these matchups should be pretty close. I don't think Fnatic is so much better than AHQ that they take this 2-0 but it wouldn't surprise me. I think Ziv and Westdoor are as good if not better than Huni and Febiven while Mountain is big advantage over ReignOver. The bot lane slightly favors Fnatic but I think Westerners are underrating An. AHQ are also a strong early game team that could actually punish Fnatic's tendancy to get behind in games. Should be a close 1-1.
  • vs Cloud 9: This should be an easy 2-0 for Fnatic who just outclass Cloud 9 in almost every way. Even the shotcalling advantage you could argue that Hai brings could be limited by veteran Yellowstar. 2 - 0.

Total Record: 4 - 2 and a loss in tiebreaker vs Invictus for 2nd place in Group B

AHQ e-Sports (LMS/Taiwan #1 Seed)

Members: Ziv, Mountain, Westdoor, An, Albis/GreenTea

  • Strong solo lanes and jungler
  • Aggressive playmakers in Mountain and Westdoor create opportunity to defeat superior teams.
  • Play their style of team comps very well and have a great macro game sense when playing them
  • Excellent in small skirmishes.

  • Not very versatile often playing the same style of team comps that revolve around Westdoor over and over. Predictable.
  • Ziv, although a world class player, hasn't had to show much domestically and in a patch where the top lane is so important his small champion pool could become an inhibiting factor in the draft.
  • Tend to play the same 4 - 1 split strategy without much diversity.
Strongest Players
  •  Westdoor (world class): Another guy that's been around forever and while he hasn't had the showing at worlds that he'd like the guy has shown that he deserves to be there over and over. Much like last years Dade, has a limited champion pool that often contains a couple of off meta picks but his individual ability on those handful of champions (TF, Fizz, Ahri, etc), is so incredibly high that teams must have a game plan to deal with them.
  • Mountain (world class): Mountain will be one of the most underrated players at this tournament heading in. This guy should be on a top tier Korean or Chinese team. Reminds me a lot of Dandy in his prime although not quite on that level. I think he's as good as Clearlove which would make him the 2nd or 3rd best jungler in this tournament and in a field where there are only a couple of world class players at his position this could create a huge advantage.
  • Ziv (world class): Although he hasn't shown us much diversity and his champion pool might be suspect, Ziv has shown brilliant teleport plays time and time again and has found creative ways to manage being left out to dry by his team in lane swap scenarios and rough matchups. Ziv is more or less everything Dyrus wishes he could be. He does a lot with very little and opens up his teams resources to An, Mountain and Westdoor. Reminds me a lot of Looper from Samsung White. 

The Breakdown:

                I think both LMS teams are being severely underrated by the West. The region is significantly better than it used to be and both AHQ and Flash Wolves are stacked with both great veteran players and excellent up and coming talent. They're not quite good enough to have my confidence to win a tournament like this but they're certainly able to take games off of the second tier of teams. I have both AHQ and Flash Wolves not escaping groups but they're certainly not the push over that people seem to be treating them as. Both play excellently early and have the individual talent to hang with most of the teams at this competition. The only reason I'm not rating them higher is because I haven't seen anything to differentiate them from the other mid tier teams here.

Their Competition
  • vs Invictus Gaming: AHQ matchup favorably with IG seeing as their solo lanes and more importantly their jungler can actually hang with IG's immense talent at those position. This will be one of the few times that Kakao is challenged in this tournament and I feel that AHQ's strong early game and IG's inconsistency will lead to AHQ taking a game. 1-1
  • vs Fnatic: As I said in the Fnatic section these two teams are built similarly and while AHQ is predictable, they play the early game much better than Fnatic does and unlike Fnatic's domestic competition, I think they can hammer the advantage home and close one of these games. 1-1
  • vs Cloud 9: This should be a relatively easy 2 - 0 for AHQ unless Cloud 9 find a way to cheese or something.
Total Record: 3 -3 for 3rd place in Group B

Cloud 9 (North American #3 Seed)

Members: Balls, Hai, Incarnation, Sneaky, LemonNation

  •  Shotcalling savant Hai can make miracles happen.
  • Mostly veterans with some worlds experience.

  • New player at jungle position.
  • New player at jungle position that has two of the best junglers in the world in this group. 
  • Only made it to worlds on a miraculous run through the domestic gauntlet after an abysmal showing during the first half of the summer.
Strongest Players
  •  Sneaky (world class): I may be rating him a bit highly but I think Sneaky is an excellent player that straight up carried this team last year at worlds and for almost all of their wins in both splits this season. In a role that is diminished in impact, he makes plays and finds ways to carry where others often can't. 

The Breakdown:

                The run is over people. I hate to burst your bubble but this team shouldn't even be here and it's pretty sad that they are. Was it entertaining to watch them run the gauntlet in crazy comeback fashion like they did? Sure. But the fact is this team was almost relegated. On the year they have a combined game record of 19-19 during the regular season and 4 - 4 in the playoffs. During their gauntlet run to get here they went down 0-2 to both Gravity and Team Impulse before reverse sweeping and then also dropped a game to Team Liquid in the Regional Final. This team is a basically a .500 team. They're not good. They struggled greatly in a region that's relatively weak. They won't be able to hold up to the rigors of international competition unless they miraculously get good overnight or successfully cheese. I don't even think this team is good enough to take advantage if another team makes a critical mistake.

Their Competition
  • vs Invictus Gaming: C9 just can't hold up to the individual skill disparity here. 0 - 2
  •  vs AHQ: Not even on the same level as AHQ but if C9 somehow wins a game it'd probably be here. 0 - 2
  • vs Fnatic: Not on the same level here either. 0 - 2

Total Record: 0 - 6 for 4th place in Group B

Group C - SK Telecom T1, Edward Gaming, H2k-Gaming, and Bangkok Titans

SK Telecom T1 (Korean #1 Seed)

Members: Marin, Bengi, Faker, Bang, Wolf, Easyhoon (sub)

  • Very strong in every lane, especially solo lanes
  • Veterans Faker and Bengi already have a world championship.
  • Probably the best macro game in the world. Rarely take fights that they aren't a high percent to win. Take necessary and calculated risks to push advantages or to comeback in a game. Always seem to have the right answer.
  • Nearly unbeatable draft versatility and huge depth of champion pools throughout the team. 
  • Ability to play drastically different strategies and team compositions from game to game while maintaining the highest level of play.

  • While certainly not weak, teamfighting is not quite up to the level of other top Korean or Chinese competition. 
  • Bengi can be a streaky player but has been playing at his highest level the most recently.
Strongest Players
  • Faker (world class): He's the best player in the world people. Incredibly deep champion pool, aggressive, proactive on the map, perhaps the most punishing player ever to play this game. Quietly had what I feel is the best seasons of his career this year and the meta is also shifting in his favor which is frightening.
  • Marin (world class): While he may not be the best carry top laner in the tournament he's one of the best. He's also the most versatile of the top laners at this tournament. Has shown great success against the best in the business in his region (Ssumday, Duke, Smeb, etc) and has shown the consistency to be considered one of, if not the best in the world as his position.
  • Bang (world class): Doesn't typically play the risk taking, hard carry style of players like Uzi or Imp but has shown the capability to do so when called upon. Rock solid in lane and positions well to cleanup the work that Marin and Faker put in.
  • Bengi (world class): He can be streaky but at the moment Bengi is playing the best I've ever seen him play both mechanically and strategically. 
  • Easyhoon (world class, sub): Interesting to me that they'd bring Easyhoon and not Tom as a contingency for Bengi playing poorly but the fact is the Easyhoon is one of the best mid laners on the planet and is just stuck behind the best player to ever play this game in Faker.
  • Wolf: Not quite world class at a tournament where Pyl, Yellowstar, and others are running around but can certainly hold his own against them.
The Breakdown:

                SK Telecom T1 are my pick to win worlds this year. They're simply too good at too many positions with too many compositions that you can't ban this team out or escape the draft with any sort of advantage whatsoever. They have superstar playmaking ability in Faker and Marin in the positions that matter the most (mid and top) and veteran presence to keep things reeled in if things go wrong. Kkoma is an incredible coach that will put them in positions to succeed. The only way to beat this team is to first get them to teamfight you without an advantage which rarely happens, and then to out teamfight them which is a feat only a handful of teams can even come close to doing. All of this while shutting down the world's best player. Unlike at MSI where they were hampered by jet lag and having played a final days before, SKT will be laser focused and ready to take on the world at this tournament and with their ability to adapt and a patch where adaptation will be key I just can't see any reasonable scenario where they lose without another team vastly overperforming and SKT dramatically underperforming. Also due to the format they cannot play one of the only teams that can potentially beat them (EDG) until the Finals because they'll be placed on a different side of the bracket.

Their Competition
  • vs Edward Gaming: This should be a good series. My gut tells me SKT take care of business and 2-0 this but EDG is one of the few teams equipped to handle SKT with Pawn (the Faker slayer) and their myriad of star players. EDG also teamfights quite well which could be an advantage. Should be close but I think SKT 2 - 0.
  •  vs H2k: Every year there is one group that is super top heavy and this is it this year. H2k don't have a chance in hell at beating SKT. 2 - 0.
  • vs Bangkok Titans: The worst team in the tournament vs the best team in the tournament... I wonder if we'll see Faker's Teemo? 2 - 0.

Total Record: 6 - 0 for 1st place in Group C

Edward Gaming (Chinese #2 Seed)

Members: AmazingJ, Clearlove, Pawn, Deft, Meiko, Koro1 (Sub?!?*)

  • Incredibly strong, world class players at every role except top (If Koro1 was playing I'd say at top as well)
  • Play a variety of strategies and team compositions which make them a nightmare to draft against.
  • Excellent macro game
  • Play equally well from ahead and behind.
  • Well coached by Aaron and Reapered.

  • AmazingJ is still an excellent player but is arguably the only weakness on this team.
Strongest Players
  • Clearlove (world class): Kakao and Clearlove are the two best junglers at this tournament and will create a huge advantage for their respective teams. Has fixed a lot of his issues and lack of aggression and early playmaking that haunted him earlier in his career. Clearlove is the full package.
  • Pawn (world class): Last years world champion mid laner is back for another go this time and with the meta shifting in his favor people will have to find a way to deal with him. Has shown well against Faker in the past.
  • Deft (world class): Deft was solid last year at worlds but not at his peak. Has fixed the main problem he had as a player which was weak early laning phase. During the Spring he was likely the best player in the world and has somehow gotten better than the colossal expectations placed on him from last year. Arguably the best ADC in the world.
  • Meiko (world class): It certainly helps when you're playing with the superstars but Meiko has shown a knack for playmaking and pressing advantages. He sees openings a lot of players miss and capitalizes. 
  • Koro1 (world class, sub): It appears (as of this writing) that EDG will be going with AmazingJ and NOT veteran Koro1. I guess they feel AmazingJ is better suited for this patch but much like with SKT, Edward Gaming have a world class bench player if necessary.

The Breakdown:

                The elephant in the room is how much of an effect can AmazingJ have on this team. He's new to the worlds stage, generally considered an inferior player, albeit not by much, and this is a relatively late substitution. There is a chance this ruins EDG's chances at a title. There's also a chance that it helps them. Koro was dealing with an injury which could also be the reason. This team has enough talent elsewhere to get the job done in groups and most of the bracket. The only teams I can really see beating EDG are SK Telecom, LGD, and KT Rolster and even still they'd be favored of KT. My concern is that this will put a limit on their ceiling. I'm not quite sure they can actually beat SK Telecom without Koro1 but if you can't beat the strongest team in the world and that's it then that's a pretty good problem to have. This team is still excellent.

Their Competition
  • vs SK Telecom: I think this series is close and that EDG has the tools to win but SKT will still take this down in 2 close games. 0 - 2
  •  vs H2k: These teams aren't even in the same ballpark. 2 - 0
  • vs Bangkok Titans: Again, not even close to the same ballpark. 2 - 0.

Total Record: 4 - 2 for 2nd place in Group C

H2k-Gaming (European #2 Seed)

Members: Odoamne, Loulex, Ryu, Hjarnan, Kasing

  • Strong strategic team that usually game plans well.
  • Well coached by Prolly and will likely have some unique picks planned to try to upset the top teams in their group.

  • Weaker recently than earlier in the year.
  • New jungler??
  • No particularly strong individual talents means they are going to be behind in most games.
Strongest Players
  • KaSing: Not quite a world class player but a solid, playmaking support that will find windows of opportunity.
  • Ryu: Not quite what he used to be but had a strong showing this year overall. Will be fun to see the Ryu vs Faker rematch although we all know how it's going to end.

The Breakdown:

                I like H2k as a team and that they are a strong strategic team in a recent meta where that matters more but for some reason they've been performing weaker lately. I'm not sure if they're just in a slump or what but even if they were playing at their best level they just don't have the tools to compete internationally. They should be able to 2 - 0 Bangkok Titans but this was just a brutal draw to get EDG and SKT in the same group effectively ruined their chances. That being said they could be the team to watch for cheese. Prolly comes up with some crazy ideas and they have nothing to lose. Perhaps they could play spoiler?

Their Competition
  • vs SK Telecom: No chance. 0 - 2
  • vs EDG: No chance. 0 - 2
  • vs Bangkok Titans: They should be able to 2 - 0 what I consider the worst team in the tournament.

Total Record: 2 - 4 for 3rd place in Group C

Bangkok Titans (International Wildcard: Southeast Asia Seed)

Members: Warl0ck, 007x, G4, Lloyd, Moss

  • So ridiculously aggressive they could catch somebody off guard?

  • Inconsistent. 
  • Recklessly aggressive
  • Weak individual players compared to the competition
Strongest Players
  • G4: He's not a world class player but he's the linchpin to this team. Plays dedicated assassins for picks and split pushes.

The Breakdown:

                The Titans just don't stand a chance. Sorry to say because they're a fun team to watch but they just have no business competing here. They play so insanely aggressive that they throw other teams off their game and there is a long shot that they maybe just get in the heads of a team like H2k and take a game but they're too inconsistent and lack the individual skills to pull that style off on an international stage.

Their Competition
  • vs SK Telecom: Best team vs Worst team... 0 - 2
  • vs EDG: Not a chance... 0 - 2
  • vs H2k: I think H2k 2 - 0 this but there is a chance the Titans ridiculously aggressive style just throws them off for a game. 0 - 2

Total Record: 0 - 6 for 4th place in Group C

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Worlds Season 5 - Metagame Predictions

     As someone that looks at League of Legends through an analytical lens I see no better way than predictions as a rough measurement of my personal success as an analyst when it comes to evaluating the game. However one can't break down a teams performance or how they matchup against other teams without first looking at the underlying metagame at any tournament for most non-static competitions.

     In this post I'll be highlighting what I believe to be the core pieces of the 2015 World Championship metagame and how they affect each other was well as the competing teams. I'll be doing a seperate write up for my group stage predictions shortly after this post so keep it tuned in!

Defining my tiers

  • Tier 1 are champions that are powerful enough that they absolutely must have a specific answer to them and those answers are usually few and far between. The exception to this are champs that are so overly powerful at their given skill set that they're worth the risk of forcing the other team to attempt to counterplay it. (think Kassadin last few season, so broken that you just never let it through ever, for the record I don't think there are really any champions quite that extreme this season even if there are people with higher ban % than he had) Tier 1 champions will typically be over 75% picked/banned.
  • Tier 2 champs are the counters to the top champs that are powerful enough to be effective in the meta, the best role players (tanks, split push, etc.), and the "safest" champions. They will sometimes eat bans because specific teams might have a specific comp that needs them off the board or a player is particularly good on one but the'yre in the 25-50% ban/pick rate usually.
  • Tier 3 champs are typically composition specific or non-meta counterpicks. These champs are usually slightly lower on the power level than the tier 1 and 2 champs even if they're still strong. Rarely banned, usually a handful of picks.
  • Tier 4 is where you see off meta specialist picks and cheese. Typically the power level is lacking so much that even when in a good scenario it's not quite good enough to overcome the power level of everything above it. Usually takes extraordinary individual skill or a lack thereof from the opponent to achieve success (Kikis' Jungle Twisted Fate for example).

Top Lane:

     Top lane still shoulders the biggest load in the current meta and has, for the most part, all year. There was a slight decrease with a shift toward the mid lane for patch 5.18 but for the most part it's still a top centric meta. For this reason there are a lot of power picks and strategies that depend on the top lane.

  • Tier 1 - Gangplank, Fiora, Darius
    • Gangplank will be the most contested pick in this world championship... in what universe did we think we'd ever say that? The power to instantly clear a creep wave, incredibly strong scaling damage, zone control power, a global ultimate, and the ability to be flexed to the mid lane are all powerful effects at the highest level of play. This will make him near 100% picked or banned for the tournament. 
    • Fiora is the premium duelist for a lot of the carry top laners right now. It didn't take long after her rework for people to catch on to just how absurd she is in the hands of a skilled player. She can wreak havoc in small skirmishes and in team fights she demands an answer in the form of hard CC and focus fire because if she's not popped immediately the fight is going to end in her favor. Fiora is the most potent threat of the bunch but doesn't have the versatility that a Gangplank does.
    • Darius, similar to Fiora, presents a potent question that needs an answer but the answer is slightly more achievable most of the time in that he's melee and can be kited by skilled players. He is, however, so ridiculously powerful in his zone of control that if you end up there it's more or less unbeatable. He is a power exception. Against ANY melee he wins. If his team has secondary engage or if he is the peel for a team then he's really tough to beat. He's a tanky bodyguard that can kill everything, tanks included, while healing. Another threat that needs to be killed immediately or you end up having to run away and stop fighting.
  • Tier 2 - Shen, Irelia, Gnar, Maoki, Lissandra, Kennen, Malphite, Rumble
    • Shen has an incredibly powerful ultimate with a lot of uses in professional play and "not lose" lane against pretty much everybody. Lacks hard wave clear and needs some time to gear up but he can usually gain map advantages because of his ultmate to pick up extra gold. Safe, sturdy, and a powerful utility champ that might even earn some bans from some teams.
    • Irelia is a champ that a lot of high rated players are playing right now. She's always been the skill tester. The champ that good top laners use to asert their dominance over weaker ones. She has great matchups against alot of the power picks including being considered one of the best answer to Gnar.
    • Gnar is safe, can bully certain champs, has limited bad matchups (Irelia, Top Reksai, Yasuo come to mind), and has a very powerful team fighting effect. Has the added bonus of being a ranged attacker for sieging and if he gets ahead early and takes the enemy tower he can opt into a Frozen Mallet build that more or less ends the laning phase on the spot for the opposing top laner keeping them pinned down because of the long lane. Gnar also does much better than his peers with limited gold. He's almost always relevant.
    • Maoki is safe, simple, and versatile. He can be the frontline in a protect composition, the engage in a pick comp, and can even be a setup piece for Yasuo who is a premier pick at the moment (more on that later). He has wave clear, very strong CC and utility from his ult and saprolings as well as very few truly bad matchups.
    • Lissandra is a champion that has not really seen play in recent months in any region but I have a feeling we'll be seeing a fair amount of her at worlds. She has strong matchups against a lot of the premium picks in both top and mid lane (Yasuo, Darius, Fiora, Diana, Fizz, Leblanc). Strong CC, decent wave clear, and the ability to be flexed to mid lane combine to present Lissandra as a strong pick for this tournament. I wouldn't be surprised if as the tournament went on she becomes higher priority.
    • Kennen is another champ we haven't seen in the solo lanes for awhile but he's good for a lot of the same reasons that Lissandra is and against a lot of the same champions she is. Kennen's wave clear is slightly less reliable and is more skill intensive than Lissandra is but also bring the ability to be flexed to mid, top, OR support. We will see Kennen this worlds. It's just a matter of how much.
    • Malphite may be a bit low on this list considering the last we left the pro scene in all regions he was starting to see some play primarily as a setup for Yasuo but in a few cases as a standalone champion. Has seen some play as support and is actually gaining popularity as a jungler in solo queue. I'm probably too low on him but I think we'll see more Kennen and Liss by the end of the tourney with so many Yasuo counters viable.
    • Rumble has only been helped by recent item changes in past few patches and is still a potent pick on raw power level alone. He still has the same problems. Susceptable to lane swaps, vulnerable post ultimate, and has some brutal counter matchups at the very highest level of play. All of these weaknesses could be covered up with the insane amount of early and mid game damage he can dish out with The Equalizer which could be super effective with all of these low range champions running around.
  • Tier 3 - Lulu, Olaf, Riven, Jax, Yasuo, Diana, Tahm Kench, Kayle, Vladimir, Ekko
    • Lulu will see play in juggermaw style compositions as well as full press/fast push comps as safe, versatile wave clear early. 
    • Olaf has seen play in both top and the jungle in compositions aimed at training (rushing down) the enemy's immobile ADC. Usually paired with Lulu, Sivir, or a super hard engage like Malphite.
    • Riven is a more extreme version of Irelia to me. Good players will take it seeking to outplay inferior opposition. Slightly more counterpick dependent than the versatile Irelia but a lot more powerful when successful. A couple of the top laners in this tournament have some mean chops on Riven (Ssumday) as well as Faker in the mid lane.
    • Jax is used by some as a lane counter to some of the power picks as he has a favorable matchup against the likes of Yasuo and Gangplank. He also scales as hard or more so than these champions so he can fill the carry role while not sacrificing as much as a typical counterpick might. Still has some problems vs high level players but certainly a powerful champion. ** If a split push meta develops at this tournament Jax will almost certainly be at the center of it if Gangplank, Fiora, and Yasuo are trying to do the same.
    • Yasuo has a great matchup against Gnar and I'm sure there are some others that specific pros like against specific champions. He's a powerful champion that can utilize the longer lane in top for kills but as it stands he's mostly just the powerful champ being flexed to wherever he can succeed. I personally find him less effective in the top lane than the mid lane overall but we'll almost certainly see him either as a flex or a specific counter.
    • Diana is in a similar situation to Yasuo. Both premium mid lane picks for raw power level and both strong enough to be worth the relatively low, but relevant, risk of putting them in the long lane. I doubt a team gets them both but at some point someone will definitely try the Diana + Yasuo wombo in a weird tango of a draft where people were playing keep away.
    • Tahm Kench is Riot's newest addition. He has powerful implications as an anti carry for these melee carries like Diana + Yasuo that are so popular and he has ability to save his teammates multiple times in short succession. There is a lot of powerful stuff going on in this kit. It's just a matter of whether pros can actually lane with him. Seeing pretty even play in top, jungle, and support. I'd actually say theres a decent chance he becomes a surprisingly popular pick in the tourney due to his versatility and the mystery of the unknown as we really haven't had the chance to see him much in competitive play.
    • Kayle is a great option against Yasuo and Diana and can punish assassins with her ultimate on either herself or allies. When Twitch is meta you almost always see Kayle in the top or mid lane. Jungle would've also been an option until devourer nerfs on this patch.
    • Vladimir shows up from time to time in the pro scene and is a half decent mid laner right now. With so many dive compositions as relevant players you might see a Vladimir as some point in the mid or top lane.
    • Ekko is getting a spot here because he can be tri flexed but you'll rarely see him in the top lane. The champ is certainly powerful but he's much higher tier as both a mid and a jungle. There is just a chance he gets seen in top from a draft flex or something.
  • Tier 4 - Garen, Hecarim, Dr. Mundo, Galio, Ryze, Heimerdinger, Shyvanna, Nasus 

    **** Doubt we'll see these but they're who I'd bet on to make a one-of appearance. ****
    • Hecarim is the least powerful of these champions but I'm sure we'll see him at least once or twice by a team or player that just feels its best in that situation. He's received too many nerfs to be a regular player.
    • Dr. Mundo might actually show up as he has a decent matchup with a couple of the top picks and if people go heavy on magic damage because of a Yasuo ban and having Corki as an ADC there's a good chance you see the good doctor show up and stack magic resist.
    • Galio is the same as Dr. Mundo for the most part except that he could maybe go mid. Coincidentally Galio is actually really really good against the current metagame (even Yasuo and the Juggernauts because of his ultimate) but I'm not sure his long cooldowns and lack of engage outside of flash make up for his strengths to see play more than once or twice. Hey he showed up last year!! ... lets forget about that one. Good luck Galio.
    • Ryze is much much much weaker earlier than he used to be but he's still a late game powerhouse. He's also really good against melee carries like Diana and Yasuo so somebody might give him a try mid (faker) or top. 
    • Heimerdinger is another good anti-dive champ. Still too cheesey for pro play in all likelihood. Too easily played around by pro players.
    • Shyvanna can punish melee carries with her strong melee aoe and innate tankiness OR dive the enemy backline and punish those that try to peel. Good matchup against Yasuo, Diana, and others certainly helps the chance of us seeing her.
    • Nasus the doge happens to have some decent matchups and can be another anti-dive champ. Wither can absolutely ruin Yasuo, Diana, and the juggernauts. Long shot to see him because of his time to scale but if a team can make it work it'll be rewarding.
  • Interesting/Honorable Mentions: Garen is seeing a ton of play and bans on live but he's just NOTgood against professional teams. He does stone nothing if he can't get to you and even if he does it's not an unescapable deathtrap or anything. I'll put Renekton in here too because he matches up well and arguably the best top laner in this tournament Ssumday was a Renekton specialist for a long long time so it wouldn't surprise me to see him bust it out for a game if they're already clinched or something.
     Top lane is incredibly diverse and by far the deepest pool at worlds this year. With so many options available it's going to come down to the strongest players either having a deeper pool or simply outclassing in matchups or team play. The MVP of this tournament should be a top laner because their role is arguably the most important right now.


     The jungle meta received a few new additions with the rework of Skarner, and introduction of the reworked Runeglaive which brought back everyones favorite high heeled shadow dancer and spider lady. While not as diverse as a solo lane by nature, there is actually a lot of viable options in the jungle right now.

  • Tier 1 - Elise, Skarner, Evelynn
    • Elise received a number of small buffs back in 5.14 that include increasing the level 1 cocoon stun to 1.6 seconds from 1 second (making it a better 1 point wonder) and slight buffs to spiderling damage. Whenever Elise is viable she seems to be top priority amongst pro teams. Her early tower diving ability, strong dueling, and safe clear time as well as the ability to solo dragon early make her a potent, well rounded threat that can fit into a number of situations.She also has the ability to build Runeglaive or Cinderhulk and play a role as either a carry or utility tank with decent damage.
    • Skarner the reworked crystal scorpion is very strong as a duelist, has a great clear, better ganks than he did in previous iterations because of his new slow, and with the crystals around the map becomes a mobile killing machine that still has the good old flash + impale combo that had him seeing play before. Tough to stop once he gets rolling.
    • Evelynn can also do a number of different builds from full hybrid with Runeglaive to Blade of the Ruined King or even Cinderhulk + Rylais.Her build versatility and ever broken ability to be stealthed and avoid vision is an incredibly powerful in the pro scene and completely changes the way teams play. I'll note that not all junglers have had success with Evelynn but most can. She'll be a high priority pick this year.
  • Tier 1.5 - Nidalee
    •  Nidalee gets her own tier because she's rather polarizing. There are only a handful of junglers that really play her well enough at the highest level to make her a choice for them but the ones that do completely take over the game with her. Runeglaive only added to her absurd early game power spike and her ability to get the game snowballing in her direction is uncanny.
  • Tier 2 - Ekko, Lee Sin, Gragas, Nocturne, Vi
    • Ekko jungle saw a lot of play in NA LCS and China's LPL as well as Taiwan's LMS. His Parallel Convergence ability is much easier to actually land from out of vision than in vision which makes his ganks potentially devastating. For how difficult he is to kill due to his mobility and tankiness from his shield he actually does a fairly large amount of damage and benefits greatly from Runeglaive as well as Cinderhulk. I expect the more skirmish reliant LPL and LMS teams like Invictus, AHQ and Flash Wolves to place a higher priority on him but he'll certainly be seeing some play especialy because I feel a lot of bans will be thrown toward the top tier junglers.
    • Lee Sin struggled for a lot of this season because the Cinderhulk junglers were so prevalent that he couldnt get early games rolling hard enough to pay for his relative uselessness in the mid and late game vs very tanky teams. With more people playing assassins and skirmish oriented junglers as well as a small buff to the Warrior enchantment I think there is a good chance you'll see Lee Sin. Also consider that some junglers at this tournament are historically excellent Lee Sin players and will likely lean on their old comfort pick to outplay inferior competition in some scenarios.
    • Gragas has received some nerfs but the fat man's suite of crowd control and displacement abilities combined with his tankiness and quick clear time make him a strong pick in almost any meta. Also combines well with two of the premium picks in other lanes in Yasuo and Vayne so you'll see him as a setup piece for those in specific compositions.
    • Nocturne received a buff to the range of his ultimate in a recent patch and saw plenty of play in solo queue as a Devourer enchantment jungler that could one shot ADC's with the use of Sated Devourer and Blade of the Ruined King. With Devourer slightly nerfed and Warrior slightly buffed you might see some Warrior Nocturne but even tanky Cinderhulk builds are perfectly fine because of his solid clear, high base statistics, and ability to dive the backline and deny vision. With so many global threats as viable choices such as Shen, Twisted Fate, Gangplank, and Soraka you'll almost certainly add Nocturne to the mix. He's been pushed by Riot and pro teams are usually pretty quick to pick up on a change like this most recent one.
    • Vi also received a slight buff but this is more of a pick that people will fall back on as a comfort pick or "we just need to kill that person no matter what" button. She's still quite good and has a number of build options that are all viable. Surprised we haven't seen her more.
  • Tier 3 - Jarvan, Reksai, Olaf, Rengar, Diana, Amumu, Khazix
    • Jarvan is always better when the tank junglers are worse. His early game damage actually matters when that's the case and he still has one of the strongest engages in the game. He's also a comfort pick for a number of junglers in the tournament that have had great success on him in the past. Only reason he's tier 3 is because he can be exploited on his first clear because he tends to get pretty low so he's predictable.
    • Reksai has received some nerfs but her overall kit is just really powerful for pro play. There are a lot of viable junglers right now and thats the only reason I have Reksai here and not higher up. 
    • Olaf has the versatility to be flexed top and combined with Lulu, Zilean, Sivir, or another potent backline threat has the ability to dive and demolish ranged mages and ADCs. TSM used this to great affect in the playoffs and I'm sure other teams have him on their radar.
    • Rengar is a powerful champion that always turns up come worlds time and there happens to be a number of strong Regnar players at this tournament this year (hello Kakao). Benefits from both Cinderhulk and Warrior buffs and has a semi global in the form of his ultimate that could be used as a counter ganking tool or one to make a pick before the globals from other champs are able to be used.
    • Diana just has a strong kit. She's a strong mid, top, and jungle because her base stats are absurdly strong and having an engage like that is powerful as an assassin or a tank. She's also a potent split push threat. Runeglaive certainly helps in the jungle but even Cinderhulk Diana can be quite good.
    • Amumu is vulnerable but can punish dive teams very very hard if he just stands between his backline and the enemy melee assassins. I'm putting him here because he might be used as an assassin/dive counterpick. He also has a very quick clear time and benefits from Rylai's buffs.
    • Khazix certainly has the snowball potential to be relevent in a meta where tanks are slightly less frequent but I can't see more than a game or two.
  • Tier 4 - Zac, Volibear, Fiddlesticks, Post nerf devourer Master Yi/Shyvanna/Udyr/Jax

    **** Doubt we'll see these but they're who I'd bet on to make a one-of appearance. ****
    • Zac benefits from Rylai's and Liandry's buffs and is still a powerful Cinderhulk jungler with great ganks. He's also half decent against assassins because of his passive meaning they have to spend more time killing him after the initial kill. Not sure he brings enough to the table but it wouldn't surprise me to see somebody bust out the AP bruiser build as a cheese pick.
    • Volibear is only here because somebody always tries it...
    • Fiddlesticks is great as a counter dive if played right. Just really weak early because Runeglaive doesn't benefit him. He was one of the only junglers that misses the old Magus enchant.
    • The Devourer Junglers include Shyvanna, Master Yi, Aatrox, Udyr, Jax, Kayle, and a few others. With Devourer being nerfed from 1 bonus damage per stack to 0.67 I just don't think you'll see them outside of maybe a game or two of a weaker team trying to make it work against a good team out of desperation. 
     The jungle isn't quite as deep as the top lane with a relatively large drop off in power happening from Tier 1 and 1.5 to the bottom of Tier 2 I expect there to be a number of bans and first picks directed at the top 4 junglers. The main focal point in a lot of drafts will be who gets the premium jungler and who doesn't or if neither does.

Mid Lane:

      Mid lane received an slight bump in overall priority this patch with a number of direct and indirect nerfs to Viktor and Azir as well as the rise of Yasuo, Diana, and Ahri once more. While not as deep or powerful as top lane I think we'll see more of the higher tier champions because of fewer bans spent on the mid lane and because mid laners will be picking blindly more often than usual in the draft so the well rounded, safe picks will be at a premium.

  • Tier 1 - Orianna, Ahri, Lulu, Yasuo, Diana
    • Orianna is back a she is every year around this time. With nerfs to Viktor and Azir (two of her worst matchups) and the rise of melee laners that she can punish with high level play she'll be the premier blind pick for mid lane 
    • Ahri is another well rounded blind pick that has the mobility to kite out the ever popular dive comps we're seeing rise to popularity. 
    • Lulu is the utility blind that can be flexed to top lane or support if necessary. She has high priority because she doesn't reveal a lot about your team and can more or less go even in most lane matchups in both top and mid. Base stat nerfs were not enough to affect how good of a blind pick she is as well as some strong synergies with hyper carries and champs like Olaf, Darius, and Fiora.
    • Yasuo is powerful and demands answers within the draft itself. With recent nerfs to armor items and the rise in popularity of excellent setup pieces to his ultimate like Malphite, Alistar, Lee Sin, Gragas, and others, Yasuo will be one of the rock-paper-scissors makers drafts this year at Worlds with teams either having a counter comp or matchup ready of mind gaming the enemy with drafting the pieces without necessarily drafting him. Can also be flexed to top in certain matchups. 
    • Diana is a base stat machine. She needs very little gear to help her do what she needs to do, she benefits greatly from teleport, Nashor's Tooth buffs, and the ability to play top, mid, and jungle. She poses a threat that needs to be answered with a counterpick and this kind of initiative and proactivity makes her a strong pick.
  • Tier 2 - Leblanc, Azir, Lissandra, Twisted Fate, Ekko, Fizz, Gangplank, Viktor
    • Leblanc is back boys and girls. Azir can no longer punish her with E knockup (hasn't been able to for awhile now). Viktor now needs more gold to get to his previous power spike. Yasuo, Diana, Ahri, and Orianna are all premium meta picks. Who is great against all of these? The Deceiver. 
    • Azir has been nerfed a few times but his kit is simply too powerful to be ignored. In my opinion he presents the absolute strongest threat in League of Legends and if he's able to get to his first two items unchecked the game is more or less over. He's not tier 1 anymore simply because some counters have come into the meta and he's received a few nerfs but make no mistake the power level is still there it's just a tad bit more risky.
    • Lissandra is a perfect attack on a primarily melee meta game with juggernauts, Diana, Yasuo, and others running around. She has excellent lane matchups in both top and mid against these champions as well as Ahri, Leblanc, Ekko, and Fizz. Due to her ability to be flexed, great tools to answer the current meta, and some recent buffs to make her self cast ult heal her I feel that Lissandra will be a very popular pick this year and I'm probably a bit too low on her.
    • Twisted Fate is always a favorite of some mid players like Westdoor and in a meta where Shen, Nocturne, Soraka, Gangplank, Ashe, and Twitch are all relevant another semi global ult with a ton of CC to punish melees is going to be a factor. Has some rough lane matchups but the risk is likely worth it.
    • Ekko is another tri flex special. Very strong kit with excellent base stats that can build any number of ways to fit the scenario he's in. Strong champion with a lot of excellent players like Rookie showing mad chops on the mobile time twister and the ability to be sent top and as a premium jungle pick as well as a solid mid.
    • Fizz had his base stats and AD bruiser build nerfed but his AP ratios slightly buffed to encourage AP and CDR Fizz to make a return. In a meta where people are relying on hard cc to lock down melee assassins Fizz can actually avoid quite a bit of it and buy time for his team to finish the job if he doesn't. He also matches up well with a few of the melee assassins. Certain players like Westdoor, Rookie, and recently Kuro always tend to favor Fizz and with some recent buffs I'm sure we'll see a bump in his played %.
    • Gangplank is likely the most picked/banned champion this year because he is arguably the best top laner but can also be played mid. It'll be interesting to see which teams opt to spend time for their mid laner to learn him as either a take away or to make it a true flex. This will be an important factor for a lot of teams and could be a major weakness if they don't have a backup plan.
    • Viktor is still very powerful don't get me wrong. I just don't think he's as well positioned as he previously was. In other words he'll still be played but with more gold needed to get to where he was before he won't be picked or banned in most games like he was most of this season.
  • Tier 3 - Kassadin, Anivia, Cassiopeia, Karthus, Vladimir, Ziggs, Veigar
    • Kassadin as well as the other members are tier 3 are all scaling champs that perform specific functions well at a cost. Kassadin can be a good top or mid laner against certain matchups that scales really well and can be a champ that can still dive in a meta where diving is drafted against. As someone that's as mobile as he is he also doesn't need to worry about being dived on himself. His lack of early wave clear could be an issue.
    • Anivia benefits from almost every single ap item change they made. Archangels, Rod of Ages, Liandry's Torment, Will of the Ancients, and Deathcap are all excellent for her and were all buffed. She's also incredible against melee's where her wall, slows, and stun can punish botched dives. You also need to kill her twice. Anivia is a sleeper for this year. I think if players get good enough to get her through a relatively weak early lane she could be the surprise of the tournament. Even Froggen has said she's definitely going to be played. I'm more along the lines of she "should" be not that she necessarily will.
    • Cassiopeia CAN be good against dives but can also be awful. She CAN be good in certain matchups vs melees or she can be the worst. With all the ap item changes helping her as well I'll be interested to see if people are willing to pick her. The power level is there but it'll depend on how fast the metagame is this year and I'm predicting that it'll be much faster than we've seen all season which might leave her too slow to hang with the big guns.
    • Karthus is another one that is excellent against dives, benefits from new ap item buffs, and is better against some assassins than people think while being absolutely horrific against others. IF he can get a favorable matchup, which I doubt because he's bad against most of the top two tiers in lane, then he could be a solid punish champ.Also decent against globals because he can run teleport in a pinch and his ultimate can help counter dives as well as Nocturne, TF, and Shen ultimates amongst others.
    • Vladimir is in much the same spot as Cassiopeia in that he can punish dives well, benefits from the ap item changes, and takes time to scale so that's the question. Is there a matchup people favor Vlad against? He's also a possible top lane choice so I'll keep him in Tier 3 because I feel we'll see him in one role or the other.
    • Ziggs is risky because of his bad matchups in lane but he wave clears well, does a ton of damage and ulting, placing your mine field, and satchel charging an opposing dive can be a devastating punish with the potential to also become a siege tool if you're ahead. Also decent against globals because he can at the very least get there with his ultimate to help teammates out.
    • Veigar has picked up a ton of traction in solo queue and with pros like Froggen spamming him. With excellent zone control, and ridiculous scaling with some CDR (to lower his Q stacking ap cooldown) he can pose quite the threat. Still not sure he can manage lane against the popular picks but if people can hide him or get him through lane phase you'll see him. I have a feeling somebody will bust him out just because he's popular even if it isn't optimal.
  • Tier 4 - Galio, Riven, Irelia, Kayle, Jarvan, Heimerdinger, Karma, Varus/AP Kog, Cho

    **** Doubt we'll see these but they're who I'd bet on to make a one-of appearance. ****
    • Galio is just a hard counter to what I believe to be a dive heavy meta. I'm just not sure his power level is high enough to be played but I'm sure we'll see it tried in mid or top at some point.
    • Riven is on here almost entirely because Faker will choose to style on somebody but there is the off chance that she gets played by some other insanely mechanically skilled mid laners like GodV or Pawn or Rookie because she actually does match up well against the likes of Yasuo, Diana, Kassadin, and others.
    • Irelia is on here as another one of those off-meta counters to the meta with a lot of risk attached. She's great against all these melee assassins and could be a niche counter to some others like Azir as well.
    • Kayle might be an option as a Yasuo counterpick in lane and the ability to ult whoever certain assassins target could prove to be very effective. Can also be flexed top and maybe even support (RIP devourer Kayle).
    • Jarvan ultimate plus another punish could be an effective way to both dive and counter opposing dives. I'm sure some of his melee vs melee matchps are half decent but I'm not entirely sure which.
    • Heimerdinger is still a bit too cheesy for pro play but he does obnoxious damage and is incredibly effective at punishing enemy dives.
    • Karma has good poke and a good early spike as well as her team speed boost and shield to perhaps kite out hard engages.
    • Varus/AP Kog I could be wrong about but with so much mobility and hard engage around I'm not sure poke champions are worth the risk. I'll bet somebody tries Varus tho because his ult can be used as a disengage/punish.
    • Chogath has a lot of good matchups but I feel he's just outclassed by other champions for a similar job. Off chance we'll see him.
  • Not-so-honorable mention to Zed who I feel just doesn't do enough to warrant a pick right now when you could pick literally any of the other assassins. Maybe somebody will try it but I'd bet money that it won't win unless it's Faker or another premium mid styling on a bad team.
        My guess is that mid lane will vary the most drastically even though top lane has more general depth of champion pool. I think you're going to see most teams prioritize the safe blind picks like Ahri, Lulu, Orianna, and Diana (because of the flex option). Some teams will opt out of learning the newer stuff and stick to Azir and Viktor even through the nerfs as an homage to their raw power level. The real question is of red vs blue side and how it affects top vs mid. With so many hard counterpicks available in both top and mid lane it'll be interesting to see which teams prioritize countering top from red side vs countering mid from red side. This could also heighten the priority of flex counters like Lissandra and Kennen a lot because they can be picked blind and flexed depending on which matchup you see which can put the other team in a tough position. I'd guess most teams will be opting for comfort and power over the flex even if that's whats optimal or I would've had Lissandra in Tier 1 both top and mid.

AD Carry:

      AD Carry is at it's all time weakest point in recent patches and is still there. This means a few things. A diminished impact for premium ADC players on most champions is the first one. But it also means that ADC's are going to get pretty much everything they could want with no bans really being thrown their way.

  • Tier 1 - Tristana, Corki, Vayne
    • Tristana two escapes in a melee and dive heavy meta with her ultimate and her Rocket Jump. She also sieges towers incredibly effectively and has a decent matchup against the other top tier ADCs. Her late game is excellent with long range, safety, and the ability to get resets in fights. She's also pretty good at fast pushing and in lane swap. I think she was underplayed during the playoffs world wide and you'll be seeing a lot of her as a blind pick ADC at Worlds.
    • Corki while there wasn't the annual Trinity Force buff this year Corki will still be relevant. His excellent lane swap, early power spike, and magic damage contribution in a meta with Yasuo around as well as his strong matchups against almost everybody in lane will make him a primary blind pick for teams since ADC has a diminished heavy carry role. 
    • Vayne is the one carry that can still hard carry in the hands of a master player. She's excellent against the juggernauts because she can actually duel them and win. The top supports like Alistar and Braum are great pairings for her. She still has a weak lane but for teams looking for early spikes Vayne has the best one item spike for ADC's besides Corki and maybe Twitch.
  • Tier 1.5 - Twitch
    • Twitch, much like Nidalee, has her own tier because there are just certain players that have him in their pool and others that don't. Certain teams will play him and certain teams won't. He's certainly powerful. With a buff to shorten his time to stealth as a nice little push and more squishy targets than previous metas as well as a few great Twitch players like Imp at this tournament I'm sure we'll be seeing him. Assassins are good everyhwere else, why not have the ADC assassin right?
  • Tier 2 - Ezreal, Ashe, Jinx
    • Ezreal just got a .5 AD ratio added to his Arcane Shift which seems pushed to me by Riot. Completely independent of this buff is the fact that mobile, assassin champions like Diana, Yasuo, Fizz, Ekko, and Ahri are powerful picks right now and Ezreal, especially blue build, is excellent against ALL of them right now. With teams blind picking ADC a lot this tournament, him being a good general fit against the meta, and a seemingly pushed buff I think you'll actually see a lot of Ezreal this year.
    • Ashe has been a priority pick in the current meta with ADC's being pushed towards utility her ultimate, slows, and Hawkshot provide a lot of utility and engage potential from a role that can't typically provide it. She also benefits A LOT from Zeke's Herald which amps critical strike chance, or in her case, ALL of her damage due to her passive. I'd have her higher but with so many mobile ADC killing machines around I'll conservatively place her here. 
    • Jinx has good matchups in lane against the likes of Vayne and Tristana and has a lot more support options that are viable to lane with her. She's sort of in the same spot as Ashe in that the meta doesn't favor her but her raw damage output and potential to snowball a fight off her resets makes her a choice for Tier 2 on power level a lone.
  • Tier 3 - Kogmaw, Sivir, Lucian, Kalista, Graves
    • Kogmaw will be played as a counter or as the primary piece in juggermaw or protect the carry comps which will be seen at this tournament at some point with Lulu being such a safe option but I doubt we'll see him outside of those compositions. 
    • Sivir has a rough time in lane against a lot of the popular picks right now but when a team just needs her ultimate and wave clear she can still be a decent option even if she's not exactly optimal. I'm sure we'll see her here and there.
    • Lucian pairs up well with Braum and Alistar, two of the top supports right now and is a versatile pick the is usually pretty good in short range, assassin heavy metagame. His well-rounded kit will see a handful of games I'm sure. 
    • Kalista has received a number of nerfs and is not particularly well suited to deal with all of the assassins (although she's good against the juggernauts). her lane phase was also nerfed quite a bit but she still has a strong kit with the utility from her ultimate synergizing with almost every single good support right now. Being able to outsmite a jungler is still a powerful effect that I might just be overlooking in pro play but I doubt we'll see more than a handful of games on Kalista.
    • Graves is always good against assassin and melee meta's but I'm not sure if he's good enough to overcome some bad lane matchups against the premium champs right now as well as his lack of overall benefit from lane swaps. I still think we'll see a few people try 

  • Tier 4 - Mordekaiser, Urgot, Caitlyn

    **** Doubt we'll see these but they're who I'd bet on to make a one-of appearance. ****
    • Mordekaiser is maybe the biggest mystery of the tournament. With a complete rework his ceiling is pretty ridiculous with the ability to control a ghost of the dragon and basically take a free tower with every dragon buff. He's also a great punish vs all the melee and juggernauts running around. This comes down to a question of whether or not a team actually needs a ranged AD carry or not. It's a question I've been testing with my 5s team and a lot of teams have been experimenting with. He had his base stats nerfed pretty hard which might scare teams off of him but I think one of the weaker teams might give him a shot as a desperation play. He's incredibly powerful I'm just not sure he can be played at the highest level where you can just kite him out.
    • Urgot tends to be pretty good in heavily melee meta games although he's typically not as good against assassins he's certainly not useless. Being able to ultimate a Diana or a Yasuo for example is a powerful effect that a team may use him as a counterpick.
    • Caitlyn seems to make an appearance every year but with Uzi not attending worlds this year I'm not sure we'll see her.
     Since ADC will get to pick whatever they want for the most part I think we'll be seeing a whole lot of the top four champions and less of the bottom tiers outside of comfort picks for certain players. I think everyone just wants to know if Mordekaiser will actually be a thing and if he can find a way to become a threat that somehow determines the meta at the tournament.


      Support has a few interesting options available to make the second tier very diverse and interesting but the premium picks will be in the majority of games.

  • Tier 1 - Alistar, Braum, Janna
    • Alistar is so well rounded and perfect for pro play. He's safe, he sets up dives, he has sustain, he's tanky, he's an engage, he's even a peel. The perfect disruptor. He's not as perfect a niche pick as Braum or others are against certain champions but overall the bull is the king right now. Also has the added bonus of pairing well with Orianna and Yasuo, two highly contested picks.
    • Braum is the best champ in the game at dealing with some champions but is also pretty damn good against the rest of the field. He and Alistar are both excellent blind picks with incredibly high versatility and next to no downside. The only reason these two won't be picked is in favor of something more specific for a given strategy.
    • Janna is the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of what she seeks to accomplish but she's still the safe blind with very high floor just like Braum and Alistar
  • Tier 1.5 - Soraka
    • Soraka gets her own spot simply because she's ridiculously annoying and frustrating to play against if your comp doesn't have ways to deal with her. She doesn't bring any of the utility that the above bring but her specific niche is so unbelievably powerful that if left unchecked she can appear to be the best support in the game. Almost no bad lane partner and limited bad lane matchups are going to make her a game of chicken in the draft. Some teams will run her, others won't, others will be punished for not respecting her, and maybe she even becomes the premier pick after people realize this.
  • Tier 2 - Morgana, Thresh, Nami, Kennen, Leona, Bard, Tahm Kench, Shen, Malphite
    • Morgana happens to be pretty good at stopping the lane dominance of champs like Braum and Alistar and typically has an advantage with some ADCs against something like Janna. Black Shield as well as her ultimate are typically very powerful in assassin and dive heavy metagames as a punish so I'm sure we'll be seeing her as a pretty safe blind pick stop sign to the metagame.
    • Thresh is incredibly versatile and can hold his own against everyone he's simply not optimal which is the only reason he's here and not in tier 1. With certain ADC's like Jinx and Kalista he's bumped up in power. Great support players mean there will be great Thresh played at worlds I'm just not sure it'll be an every game thing.
    • Nami pairs excellently with Jinx, Tristana, Vayne, and Twitch and while she's vulnerable to being gimped by the popular assassin champs she provides a slow for her ADC to kite out threats and her ult is an excellent anti dive tool. I'm sure we'll see her.
    • Kennen is a dangerous flex option and a perfect attack on a meta where bot lane bully ADC's arent popular and he can push people around as well as hard counter dives with his ultimate. Pairs excellently with Lucian, Kalista, and even Corki. 
    • Leona is still super reliable as an engage and can tustle with Alistar, Braum, and Thresh pretty well. Pairs excellently with Corki, Ezreal, and Jinx which means we might see more of her than you'd think. Certain players like Yellowstar happen to favor her a lot as an added bump to her pick %.
    • Bard is a champ we only got to see a limited amount of and he seems to thrive more as an attack against protect/double hyper carry comps as a way to stop their backline from damaging while yours gets into position. He's vulnerable to a lot of the assassins but I think certain supports will favor him as an anti dive champ and a way to stifle hard engages. Certainly a unique kit with a lot of potential in the right hands.
    • Tahm Kench is absurdly powerful against dedicated assassins. He punishes melees really hard as well. and his lane phase is actually a lot better than people think. I'm putting Tahm as my sleeper hit of the tournament with the ability to be played support, top and jungle as an anti carry or as a multi use Kayle ult that happens to be tanky as hell. He's super strong I'm just not sure where he fits into pro play.
    • Shen is a strong top laner that has also seen some play as a support. Being resourceless and excellent against melee divers and single damage type stacking teams make him a viable option that might only be played by a couple of players and often as a take away from the opposing top or as a flex for their own top.
    • Malphite support has popped up a few times and its ability to be flexed to top and (maybe) jungle is an interesting proposition. He's in a pretty good spot as both a peel and a hard engage in the current meta I'm just not sure of his specific matchups and his lack of effectiveness before level 6 will be enough. Might be seen as a take away from enemies threatening a Yasuo comp or as a way for you to threaten your own if Alistar was taken off the board.
  • Tier 3 - Nautilus, Annie, Blitzcrank, Karma
    • Nautilus fell off in popularity for seemingly no reason. He's still a decent option but I just feel that others are better. He's much better moving forward than as a peel even if he's not particularly bad at that. I just think there are more optimal choices right now but you might see him.
    • Annie always seems to pop up at Worlds. The flash + Tibbers engage is still one of the best in the game but she has a weak lane matchup against a lot of popular supports and ADCs as well as vulnerabilites to a lot of other popular champs in other lanes.
    • Blitzcrank ... somebody will try it. It's actually not too bad with fewer tanks being played.
    • Karma is a possible attack on dive champions and has a really strong lane phase to punish weaker ones like Tristana. Certain players like LemonNation really favor Karma. Also has fringe flex pick possibilities to top and mid and even jungle.
  • Tier 4 - Galio, Velkoz, Zilean, Kayle

    **** Doubt we'll see these but they're who I'd bet on to make a one-of appearance. ****
    • Galio is just a hard counter to what I believe to be a dive heavy meta. I'm just not sure his power level is high enough to be played but I'm sure we'll see it tried in mid or top at some point.
    • Velkoz does a stupid amount of damage. Small chance one of the weaker teams might try to cheese with him.
    • Zilean should be really good in theory. His ult is powerful, it's easier to hit his double stun when everyone is diving forward. I'm just not entirely sure of his laning. He also has some great synergies with Olaf, Diana, and Darius.
    • Kayle might be an option as a Darius, Leblanc, or other as a niche counterpick.
        While support has a lot of counter options available I think you'll mostly just be seeing the top 4-6 with a heavy emphasis on Alistar and Braum. If I had to pick a sleeper here it'd be Zilean but I think Tahm Kench has some very real power and if people catch on you'll see a ton of him.

       This patch 100% helps the Chinese and LMS teams as well as Europe. With so many juggernauts, assassins, and niche counterpicks in both solo lanes available and these regions showing no fear to play the draft aggressively I think they benefit the most from the meta shift heading into worlds. Teams like AHQ, Flash Wolves, Invictus gain significant boosts in win potential and teams like Origen and Fnatic also receive a bump. I'll mention that I think this actually helps out Pain Gaming, SK Telecom, and KT Rolster as well with a power shift towards the mid lane and these teams having particularly strong players at that position. This patch hurts KOO Tigers, TSM, H2K, and possibly C9 depending on how they choose to prioritize countering vs picking comfort comps. The higher dependency on the combination of mid, top, and jungle as a combined unit makes these teams a bit more susceptable due to relative weakness at those spots compared to the field.

       This year should be a lot more interesting in drafts than Season 4 where Alistar and Zilean were true 100% must pick or bans. I think Gangplank and Fiora are the closest things we have to t at this year but they both have more counterplay than the afformentioned. I think the most interesting thing will be whether or not side dependent flex picks like Kennen and Lissandra become the meta or if teams will just play power and comfort over versatility.

     Thanks for reading and feel free to add me in game or chime in here. I'll be posting my predictions for group stages in the next couple of days now that I've made my read on the meta.

 Syndra in Tier 4 Can have some good matchups against other zone control mages and a few of the mid laners have had great success with her in the past but I doubt we'll be seeing her.

Veigar Tier 3 Mid and Support: Recent buffs to assists granting bonus ap and strength against heavy melee teams put him in a decent spot.

Zilean top of Tier 3 supports: Another anti metagame fit. Took people awhile to figure it out but he's really powerful when everyone is dog piling in. Also great for speed buffing champions like Olaf, Jax, Volibear, Diana, Yasuo, etc.