Winning in the Challenger Series and winning in the LCS are two very different beasts.
I expressed doubt in the Misfits in my preseason power rankings, and my biggest reason for doing so was evident in their first LCS series against the Giants. To put it simply, the Misfits did not play efficiently with their leads. One series is hardly enough to say “I told you so,” but it doesn’t bode well that the team suffered from a continuing lack of refinement in their mid/late game.
Building early leads and riding them to victory was exactly how the Misfits conquered the Challenger Series. In the EU CS regular season and playoffs, the Misfits dominated the first 15 minutes, and dropped only one game along the way as a result. But that didn’t happen in the Promotion Series, and it almost cost the Challenger champions their chance to join the LCS. Some of the red flags from the Promotion Series were once again evident in their first LCS match.
Misfits Statistical Trends
|EUCS Reg Seas||9-1||+1,999||0.84||76%|
|EU LCS Week 1||2-1||+1,684||0.59||25%|
From these numbers, a few trends are clear. First, the Misfits have relied on early gold leads to win. Second, the Misfits are more successful in fast-paced games with high combined kills per minute (CKPM). Third, the Misfits’ success seems closely tied to Baron control.
Gold leads and fast pacing are both important to the Misfits because they play to the team’s strengths, meaning their players’ mechanics in laning and combat. In the Challenger Series, these strengths were accentuated. The Misfits could roll over their opponents in the first 10 to 15 minutes, then continue forcing the issue with repeated fights, often using the Baron as a catalyst for those fights.
When the Misfits came up against LCS teams in the in Promotion Tournament, their mechanics were somewhat deemphasized, and their opponents slowed the pace of play through map control, rotations, and greater emphasis on macro play. That led to fewer Misfits gold leads, and a reduced ability to either force or bait fights where they could bring their gold and mechanics to bear. As a result, both their Baron control and their win rate dropped.
Against the Giants in week 1 of the LCS, the Misfits faced some of the same challenges. The Giants resisted the early snowballs by trading objectives, split pushing, and doing a better job than the average Challenger team of managing the push-and-pull of Baron baits.
The Misfits were on the front foot in the early game for most of the series, with lots of roaming from Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun, Barney “Alphari” Morris, and Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, but some of their biggest plays turned out to be inefficient, so the Giants were often able to trade something back.
Once the mid game arrived, the Misfits found themselves magnetically drawn to the Baron pit. It was an obsession that followed them from their EU CS days, when you could far more often find them starting a Baron than chipping away at inhibitor towers.
Against weaker opponents, this worked more effectively, but against the Giants the Misfits found themselves being pushed away, costing them time and map control, or giving up coin flip steal opportunities. In game 1, that pattern of play cost them the game as Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi got a clutch steal and Olof “Flaxxish” Medin punished the Misfits’ lack of side lane control with a powerful Illaoi split push. In game 2, the Baron play worked: the Giants didn’t react well enough and the Misfits had a larger gold lead to support their attempt. Game 3 produced another Memento Baron steal that threatened to turn things around, until the Giants threw the game away with some bad decisions afterwards.
Dealing with Change
It wasn’t only their opponents who made things difficult for the Misfits. Changes to their roster and the meta also affected them. Last summer, the Misfits relied mostly on IgNar and mid laner Marcin “Selfie” Wolski to initiate fights. Both players were effective at throwing themselves at their opponents all around the map. IgNar, especially, was a catalyst, leading the team in kill participation in both the regular season and playoffs. Now PowerOfEvil has replaced Selfie and IgNar is being pushed onto a slightly different champion pool. The cumulative effect is less aggression from the mid lane and fewer opportunities for IgNar to be a consistent initiator, especially with the loss of Alistar from the meta.
To deal with these changes, Alphari will need to take on more of the initiation duties. That means continuing to improve his use of Teleport, which puts the onus not only on him but on his team’s communication.
In the end, while the Misfits’ pattern of play in their first LCS match was typical of their successful run through the Challenger Series, their games against the Giants could have gone either way. They earned a 2-1 series win, but showed some sloppiness in the early game and burned through a bit too much of their mid-game gold cushions.
These issues are entirely understandable for a young team. In fact, they are exactly what we should expect, given what we’ve seen from the Misfits in the past. But that doesn’t change the reality that there’s a lot for the team to work on over the coming months.
The Giants are neither the most skilled collection of players nor the best strategic team in Europe, but they still managed to make life difficult for the Misfits. Much more difficult opponents await the league’s newest squad, opponents who will punish the Misfits’ early-game inefficiencies much harder, manage the Baron pit that much better, and more diligently avoid throwing. If the Misfits don’t improve their early-game efficiency and learn to play a more intelligent, balanced game after the 20-minute mark, they may have a long, painful learning experience ahead of them this split.
- On the plus side for the Misfits, AD carry Steven “Hans sama” Liv performed reasonably well on Jhin and played a key role on Ashe. Previous trends had seen him struggle on champions with more utility and less mobility. That lack of flexibility had been another one of the reasons I dropped the Misfits in my preseason rankings, but Hans took a step towards reassuring me.
- You can change the players on the Unicorns of Love roster, but you’ll never purge the chaos style, at least not in their drafts. Their first game of the split featured some meta-stretching champions in Kassadin, Caitlyn, and Lulu. The Caitlyn+Lulu bot lane made a return for game two, and the Unicorns picked up two impressive wins. Consider those wins further evidence for the fact that a unified team composition with clear win conditions is more important than just getting as many “OP” champions as possible.
- Splyce lost convincingly to H2K, in a somewhat anticlimactic match given that these two teams are expected to duke it out for first in group B over the course of the split. Splyce had issues with their early game, as expected, registering a -1,885 GD@15 in those two games, but a +16.0/+351 CSD/GD@10 from AD carry Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup is very encouraging. Splyce only need to stay within reach in the early game to give their strong mid-game a chance to come alive, so if they can count on their bot lane duo to be this effective it will give them a lot more options going forward.
Photo courtesy of flickr.com/lolesports