Sports

League of Legends playoff bringing the hype in esports

The Galen Center is packed with fans for the Season 2 Championship. (credit: Courtesy of Artubr via Flickr) The Galen Center is packed with fans for the Season 2 Championship. (credit: Courtesy of Artubr via Flickr)

The lights dim in a stadium packed full of people. The crowd roars as the stage lights up. Is it a hockey game? A concert? No, it’s the beginning of the 2016 League of Legends playoffs. League of Legends is a video game played by teams of 5 players that each control a character, known as a champion. These champions duke it out on a fantasy battlefield known as Summoner’s Rift, using magical abilities and attacks to defeat their opponents. Teams all over the world practice this game professionally, for multiple hours every day, in order to hone their skills. The best of these teams take to the Rift every weekend, facing off in a season-style format called the League Championship Series (LCS) to determine the best team over three months.

That three-month season has finally concluded for the spring, and the playoffs are about to begin. The best six teams from North America and Europe will compete in a tournament in their respective regions, fighting for the title of 2016 Spring Split champion, as well as a chance to attend the word championships at the end of the year. The tournament is a single elimination tournament, with each match consisting of a best of five series.

In North America, the Spring Split has been dominated by Team Immortals: a so-called “super team” made up of players from various successful teams last season. Immortals took the North American LCS by storm in the 2016 season. Nobody was sure how this mixture of talented players would come together to work as a team, but they have shown themselves to be the best team in North America, and are even being considered as contenders on the international stage. The Immortals navigated the nine–week regular season with just one loss in their 17–1 record; a nearly impossible feat according to recent seasons. They are the clear favorites to win the tournament, and could perhaps be the team that finally makes North America proud on the international stage. Close behind them is Counter Logic Gaming with a 13–5 record, and they are also the only team to beat the Immortals. Before the split, Counter Logic Gaming lost their star carry player to rival Team SoloMid as well as their mid–laner to the Immortals, so they had some rebuilding to do. However, with the help of LCS veterans Darshan and Aphromoo, Counter Logic Gaming has once again managed to find their way into the playoffs. However, this time they’ve got a much tougher challenge on their hands than Team SoloMid, the usual classic playoff matchup. Counter Logic Gaming will have to get creative in order to beat the nearly invincible Immortals one more time.

The European bracket is more complicated than its North American counterpart. The top European team is G2 Esports with a 15–3 record. G2 came out of the Challenger Series (the B-league for LCS) and took the league by storm this season, exceeding every expectation and proving themselves as the top contenders for the regional championship. However, they show more weaknesses than Immortals in North America. Their wins are less dominant and they’ve lost more games, but G2 plays with confidence and fast, aggressive decision making that results in very high risk, high reward play. If they can execute their plays with precision, G2’s hopes in the playoffs look very high.

If they cannot, however, second seed H2k Gaming will be keen to take their spot. At 14–4, H2k are just barely behind G2, and they’ve been hungry for the chance to take the number one position. H2k is made up of well known, experienced players that have the ability to play as a team, and this is their advantage over G2. Being a fairly new team, G2 still has troubles with synergy and communication, especially considering problems with language barriers between Korean and European players on the team. H2k should look to exploit these weaknesses with coordinated and precise team play. These two are not the only teams in serious contention, however, and teams like Vitality and Origen also have a very good chance of upsetting the top two seeds. They’ll have to take to the rift to find out.

The playoffs begin with quarterfinals on April 2 at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. for Europe and North America respectively, and can be viewed on YouTube.com, Twitch.tv, and Azubu.tv. Tune in and catch the action to find out who will be named the champion of the 2016 LCS Spring Split.