IEM team rundown
Unicorns of Love: UoL has strolled into the scene with a good deal of crowd support, due partly to the silliness of their name, but also largely in part due to the unique, charismatic playstyle they employ on the Rift. Their in-game antics, such as Poppy in the top lane, combined with their very tangible success in the Challenger Promotion Series, carry a lot of fanfare. However, despite being voted in by the fans, they hardly represent the highest quality of play that Europe has to offer, as teams such as SK Gaming and Roccat did not enter the tournament. The constant Reddit debate of EU vs NA will be in full focus at this event, and UoL is going to have to be prepared to face the wrath of fans as one of EU’s only representatives. It’s no small burden for UoL to bear, and I’m not sure they’re up to the task. Despite being an LCS team, they still have yet to face any top-tier western teams, and their lack of experience could be a critical factor as they step into the world spotlight.
It is important to note that, whether or not they lose, UoL is in a prime position to gather experience and get acclimated to playing in front of a live audience before the LCS actually begins. All too often, we see teams who, fresh from the challenger promotion series, aren’t able to really pull it together before their struggles from the earlier games of the split condemn them into relegations. This LAN experience could be huge for UoL if they look beyond this IEM and into the 2015 season. The question shouldn’t be whether or not they’re going to lose, but rather, what are they prepared to take away from their losses. It’s easy enough to get swallowed up by the community’s hatred on Reddit or Twitter, but there is delicious chocolaty center if they have the mental fortitude to persevere and taste it.
Lyon: Little is known about the Latin American Lyon Gaming, and so there is little to write about. This team qualified quietly, and is now sitting calmly in the bracket stage matched up against Unicorns of Love, but we still have little information. One important thing of note, however, is Maplestreet’s presence on the team, subbing for them in the AD Carry position. I can’t say a lot for Lyon Gaming until I see them in action, but it will be valuable to see Maplestreet’s return to a fully competitive environment after Velocity bombed out of the LCS. His performance could potentially give us a roadmap on what to expect from him this year in the NA LCS, but at the same time, it’ll be hard to fault him if he does poorly here, given what is likely an unfamiliar team environment.
Substitutions aside, there is no doubt that Lyon Gaming is the heavy underdog coming into this first round of IEM. It’s likely that the League community will interpret a victory on their part as a result of UoL’s poor play, rather than Lyon’s excellent play. So while this most likely won’t be the most exciting match, keep an eye out for some potential bright spots in the play of either team.
Predictions: UoL knows next to nothing about their opponents, while Lyon has had plenty of games from UoL to study from, so good preparation on their part could be the game-changer in this matchup. However, even with proper preparation, UoL has a far better team on paper, and I don’t see much of a chance for Lyon in this first bracket match.
UoL 2-0 Lyon
pAIN Gaming: The Brazilian Pain Gaming comes in after being fairly quiet in the international scene. After their success in the previous IEM to host LoL, defeating legitimate European teams like Millenium, they surprised many viewers by failing to successfully qualify for World’s, the spot they wanted eventually taken by the legendary Kabuum. Pain Gaming has quality players and quality management, and with the recent acquisition of their new toplaner, they look set to be major players in the South American scene yet again. However, it has been awhile since the team had a true test, and if they’re looking to bounce back from their failure at the Wild Card tournament, they’re going to have to fight through arguably the toughest competitor at San Jose.
Cloud9: Coming in after a decent World’s performance in which they advanced second in their group behind Najin White Shield, Cloud 9 looks to reassert their dominance in the western hemisphere of competition. There is a general consensus that they are the likely favorites, as they carry the exact same roster that they had in the previous season. While other frontrunners for victory, such as TSM and Alliance, have recently had a roster change this offseason, Cloud 9 remains the same stalwart band of Americans they were when they first qualified for LCS in Season 3. They had been able to devote their full attention to unraveling the mysteries of patch 4.20, and fans everywhere are waiting quietly to see exactly what C9 has found.
I’m picking Cloud 9 to win this San Jose, but there may be a few hiccups. For instance, in patch 4.20, the biggest change by far is once again to the jungle. For some teams, this may only come as small hindrance, but Cloud 9 is a team dominated by its jungler, Meteos. A team centered around its jungler has its own advantages, but at the same time, it is a major weakness if Meteos hasn’t fully adapted to the 4.20 jungle yet. If he hasn’t, then the jungle becomes the big equalizer between them and other teams; a Meteos at limited effectiveness is a crippled Cloud 9. However, though these doubts may be present, C9 is famous for being a very intelligent team, and it’s likely that they have some of the best understanding of the new jungle in all of North America, and so I don’t predict that Meteos will even be hindered, much less an actual liability to his team. Since this is first real taste of competitive 4.20 play, however, everything said here is nothing but honest conjecture. All we can really do is watch and wait.
Predictions: Cloud9 is undeniably the favorites against Pain Gaming. There is not much to say on the matchup; most fans probably won’t even give Pain Gaming a second look when they see who they’re up against. As much as I like predicting upsets, I don’t think there’s any way I can predict anything except a Cloud 9 sweep and still have a clear conscience. That being said, this is another big chance to get a look at the South American scene, normally a very closed-off region. The regions outside of major areas like Korea, America, and EUW get little exposure, but have quietly been closing the gap between them and the big boys. I’m still predicting a whitewash, but don’t be too surprised if Pain Gaming puts up a little bit of a tussle in these games.
Cloud 9 2-0 Pain Gaming