Thursday, October 31, 2019

November 2nd and 3rd: Worlds 2019 Semifinals

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moneyline: G2 eSports +135 (2 units)

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

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

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

1 comment:

  1. Hey been a consistent reader for a while now. Couldn't disagree more with your point that "First, I tend to value superior map play and macro over individual talent even in a metagame that has favored individual prowess more than any since season three." Are you saying that it's been focusing more on individual outplay? Everyone that's played League totally disagrees. Nowadays it's the worst player on your team that loses you the game, it's not the best. The meta is "get blown up immediately" which is why Kaisa and Xayah are the two most popular picks, they have tools to become untargetable and live through burst.

    So yeah, I think Riot has been focusing more on "hurr durr team game team work, don't let one player just take over the game" in its balancing, not focusing more on individual outplays. Things like gold bounties and catchup exp directly contradict your idea about the meta since season 3 (where supports were still ward bots)

    The other point I wholly disagree on is where you choose to prioritize teamplay and macro over individual laning domination. Philosophically, there's a saying in sports "you can't teach tall". Basically, you can train anyone and teach them to do smart macro plays and smart pick bans and what not. You can't teach what TheShy has or the individual mechanics that make players amazing. So I think I'd rather put my money on the individual talent that has at points looked disorganized to, in the quarter finals where everything is on the line, get it together and shore up their weak macro mistakes. Basically, individual skill has the higher ceiling assuming you can teach them how to macro. Anyone can figure out when to take drag or baron or when to push a tier 2 turret. You can't teach 1v1 ability and that's what I want to bank my money on is that difference in skill that cannot be overcome.

    My odds are -140 IG +110 Fnxplus so I'm going with IG at those prices. They've obviously been on this big stage before and have the experience and the nerves won't be as apparant as it will be for FunPlus, who were the favorites going in and have more to lose and also lost their most recent match, so the mental game is going towards IG.