It's only two weeks into the Season 3 LCS for League of Legends, and already we're seeing some surprises and some sad, but obvious, conclusions.
North American Roundup: The Big Four
Prior to the start of the LCS, the prevailing opinion was that TSM & CLG would duke it out for top honors, and Curse and Dignitas would be scrapping it out to keep their heads above water and avoid relegation. Boy, was that wrong. Curse has been dominant in their games thus far. They've gone 5-0 without really showing any hiccups along the way. They're the only really complete team in North America. TSM has that early game aggression, but their late game isn't as precise. CLG has a ridiculous ability to turtle and dominate late game, but have you ever seen a CLG game end before 35 minutes? Neither have I.
Because of scheduling quirks, they haven't all played the same number of games, but it's pretty clear who the best team in North America is at the moment. On the other end of the spectrum, it's pretty clear who the worst team is too. It's not the 0-5 Vulcun (formerly FeaR), who have had the unfortunate bad luck to start with TSM, Dignitas, TSM, and Curse as their first four opponents before losing a close game to Good Game University (GGU). No, they've shown some ability, and while they're unlikely to crack the top 4, I suspect they won't finish last. I think the team that will finish eighth out of eight is, unfortunately, Team MRN. They looked hopelessly lost in their two games this weekend (TSM and Dignitas). And it's not really surprising when you look at their history. In the qualifiers, they barely squeaked through, and they did it on the back of their Taric/Urgot games. They went 6-3 in qualifying, but four of those wins were with that lane combo. One of the others was a rather lucky base race against Cloud9. Once you remove the Turic/Urgot option for them, they don't seem to have a fallback plan they're comfortable with.
That leaves compLexity and GGU to talk about. GGU is the only other team with a win at this point, and that came against Vulcun. compLexity has only played a single game, and it was, frankly, Curse's closest game so far. They were hanging with Curse early and had one bad team fight mid-game that just caused them to unravel. Both of those teams could challenge Dignitas for that 4th spot. But I wouldn't bet on it.
European Roundup: Is This Thing Run by the CFC?
Clusterfuck is a great name to put on the EU table at the moment. GIANTS!'s win last week against Gambit Gaming and Dragonborns's win this week over SK have left the table wide open. Evil Geniuses (EG) sits on top at 5-1, but then you have three teams at .500 and two teams that are one win over .500. Copenhagen Wolves have had roster issues and look set to be the whipping boys for the season. They were unable to beat GIANTS! Gaming in a game that, on paper, their team had a monumental edge based on the picks and bans. I suspect they'll be at the bottom of the standings come relegation time.
Let's talk a little about that number one team. Evil Geniuses have been nearly as dominant as Curse at this point. Froggen is ridiculous in mid and now commands two "required" counter picks with Twisted Fate (TF) and Anivia. The plays he's able to pull off with TF are ridiculous, and you just can't afford to let someone that good get a champ that mobile. Unfortunately, in the current meta, those are two bans you don't really want to be making. Picking TF or Anivia to keep them away from Froggen are equally bad ideas. So EG starts the game off with an edge over their opponents. Then you look at how well they combine insane turtling skills (they used to be CLG.eu, after all) with enough aggression at level 1 that you can't ignore them, and you have a tidy little package of destruction.
It's not clear how the top four will shake out just yet. SK Gaming is very streaky. They're the only team to beat Evil Geniuses at this point, but they lost the rematch and they lost to Dragonborns. I suspect that we'll see Dragonborns, GIANTS!, SK and Gambit Gaming all battling it out for third and fourth place, while EG and Fnatic float above the fray. All four of them continue to be dangerous, however, and it should make for an exciting season on the European side.
Through two weeks and 32 games, we've seen a ridiculous 84 champions picked or banned between the two leagues. There are only 20 champions who have been picked in both leagues, which is incredible. Of the remaining 26 champions, some big names are missing. Ahri, Amumu, Fizz, Jax, Talon, Skarner, Yorick and Ziggs have all been unpicked, despite being strong in recent tournaments and/or the end of Season 2. Amumu, in particular, is an interesting omission, as he was picked frequently in the last IEM tournaments as well as in both LCS qualifiers. He seems to have simply disappeared. Just three weeks ago, Amumu/Miss Fortune was a combo that was highly contested. Now it seems to have dropped off the planet. Amumu remains banned ridiculously often in ranked play (nearly 70% according to lolking.net), but hasn't done anything in the LCS yet. I suspect that will not change, but here's hoping.
Nothing crazy strategy-wise this week. We continue to see champions move around frequently, but nothing really earth-shattering. Still tanky top, vaguely anything mid, jungler, and ADC + 0 CS support bot as the standard. Teams are getting more comfortable with the lane swaps and handling it better, so you're seeing it a lot less. The standard counter now is just to wait for the inevitable 3v1 tower dive top and then try to either not give up the kill or deny the tower while stealing Dragon. That comes out so much better for the team that didn't lane swap that it seems to have negated that strategy significantly.