For those of you unfamiliar, the LCS ("League Championship Series") will be a weekly event with two "halves". The idea is that the best teams from last year will automatically qualify and they'll be joined by other teams (some well known, some unknown) from an open qualifying event. The culling process is pretty brutal. 16 teams for 5 spots doesn't sound horrible but when you consider that Curse, Team FeaR and Meat Playground are also fighting for spots it becomes clear how little room there is for error in this event. Those games happened this past weekend and the results were outstanding.
The event was setup with a group stage of four with a double elimination system deciding who advances. This created a strong sense of "do or die" for the teams and encouraged the more underdog teams to be aggressive and innovative. Aggression they delivered, with varying degrees of success. Sadly, innovation was not in their lexicon.
Some things that I think we can safely glean from these events:
The 2012 vintage of champions is legit. Jayce, Nocturne, Lulu, Zyra, Elise, Ziggs, Zed and Kha'Zix all made appearances for winning teams.
There was sadly a lack of innovation. We got to see different champions being played but that's likely due to personal preference and not a change in the Meta. There were a few notable oddities that stand out, however.
Team FeaR vs. Good Game University: Jayce vs. Ziggs mid lane. Both teams attempted to use their mid lane champs to control their opponent and zone them out. Jayce (FeaR) ultimately won with a full AD build but it was a good poking contest early on between the two.
Team MRN vs. Azure Gaming: J4, Riven, Taric, Urgot and Ahri vs. Nunu, Nocturne, Cho'Gath, Graves, and Kassadin. Both comps are a nice break from a predictable meta. MegaZero has love affair with Riven and this game gave him a chance to show off his favorite champion. Urgot is not a "traditional" ADC (doesn't have the normal "kit" and lacks the auto-attack range of other ADCs) but MRN showed him off to good affect. Cho'Gath occassionally appears top/mid but is generally a jungler so it was nice to see him out of that environment and Kassadin showing up in a high level game is always nice.
AoE stun/immobilize + AoE crazy damage ult: We might be entering the "combo" meta with a number of teams choosing team comps that looked like this, "Amumu, Miss Fortunate, Sona, Katarina". Getting your team to be "synergistic" has always been a goal but these picks take that to a new level. Having a double plan like this covers you for the inevitable stun/fear/whatever the other team has.
Playing this "game" like a "job" gives you a significant edge. It shouldn't really be surprising, but the teams that have already gotten significant pro experience universally did well. Team FeaR, Good Game University and Curse all qualified by the second day while only Meat Playground failed to get through. Congratulations are in order for The Brunch Club and Team MRN for getting through as amateurs, well done guys.
Speaking of "The Brunch Club", can we all agree that "She Said She Was Level 18" was a better name? The ever so slightly non-PC name probably got some "strong suggestions" from Riot regarding a name change but I think it was clearly a wittier name than my Mom's reading group that meets at the Olive Garden (consequently, ALSO a better name than "The Brunch Club"). Maybe the original name just didn't reduce to 3 letters well ("S18")?
Buying oracles is still viable. 400gp is a small price to pay to have security when doing Baron. On the other hand, they are more situational now, and less of a "must buy" while jungling. That said, at lower ELO play, you're going to have more deaths and fewer wards so it may not ever be worth purchasing.
Maybe ban Urgot against MRN? Meat Playground came in with a clear strategy. Don't let them take Riven, J4 and Anivia. In the first game, MRN didn't take Urgot/Taric and got trounced. But in games 2 and 3 they went back to it and came back to win the series. They then went on to use him to win in the finals finishing 4-0 in games they played Urgot. Whether that means Urgot is good or just that MRN is good with Urgot remains to be seen.
Speaking of MRN, "Never give up. Never surrender!" has never been more true. With their dreams on the line, MRN was down 11-4 in kills against Dirt Nap Gaming in the finals. They'd lost 6 turrets to their opponents 1 and hadn't had a Dragon since the early stages of the game. DNG was doing everything in their power to deny them any ability to farm with a split pushing Shen. Rather than give up, MRN buckled down and did everything they could to stay in it. They kept their wards up so that they had good vision in their jungle and farmed as best they could while making DNG's gains slow. In the end, they capitalized heavily on two mistakes by Prolly, the Karthus player on DNG, who got too aggressive with his mana and was caught without in two team fights (one at Baron). Those two aces got them completely back in the game and allowed them to push for and secure a win. It was a huge throw by DNG (and Prolly is likely pretty upset with himself) but shows a tremendous amount of mental fortitude and willpower from the MRN crew.