Riot launched their beautiful official site for the Season 3 last night, and the schedule maker certainly wanted to start things off with a bang. Both Europe and North America will see some of their most storied teams clash in the opening week of the LCS, and with only 10 weeks for teams to play 28 matches we are in for quite a treat.
Each match is a best of 1 with points at stake for each game, and every team plays each other 4 times in the LCS. Anything can happen in 1 game matches, expect upsets, innovation and failures to happen each week as times rise and fall in the LCS. We're going to take a look at North America's week 1 marquee matches and what's at stake for the top 4 teams as they clash on February 7th and 8th.
What's at stake - Why Week 1 matters
Teams play a varying number of games each week, but Riot was sure to launch NA off with a bang as TSM, Dignitas, CLG, and Curse all play 3 times in the first week. The top 4 teams from Season 2 will have already completed a little over 10% of their season after week 1, and many matches are against each other. A disastrous week 1 will put a team in a tough position early, and the new teams to Season 3 aren't as far away from the top dogs of Season 2 as they use to be.
Looking at these teams individually, we haven't really heard much from TSM, CLG, or Dignitas since the end of Season 2. None of these teams have been opening a majority of their scrims to the public, and it will be interesting to see how the long layoff since IPL 5 (or the Season 2 championship for Dignitas) affected the scene's perennial bullies.
TSM is a former juggernaut that hasn't figured out how to return to their top form, but will have a chance to make 3 huge statements with their matches. Dignitas could very well be the best team in North America right now, but they'll have to prove all their closeted scrims have been paying off. CLG has another roster move that will be on display in their inaugural match, and it only gets tougher from there.
That leaves us with Curse, who has long been the team on the outside looking in as those 3 teams have all the success in North America. That could very likely change starting next week, as Curse has been competing to take part in Season 3 keeping their edge visibly honed. Curse is playing as well lately as they ever have as a team, and seems to be really coming together at the right time. They will have to play Dignitas, CLG, and GGU in the first week, but this gives them their shot to stake their claim as the best team right now in North America.
Could Season 3 start any other way? We have to remember where we came from, and these two teams have been the most successful in North America since LoL's inception. Both teams have gone far too long for their own and especially their fans' liking without a tournament win, and much more than bragging rights will be at stake. TSM has been struggling in recent scrims and CLG is playing with Link at mid instead of Jiji on LAN for the first time. These teams both need to start the LCS with a win, but only one come away on top.
The Link vs Reginald match-up will certainly be something to watch as TSM always seems to go as Reginald goes. TSM likes to snowball Reginald in the mid lane, who then snowballs everyone else with excellent roaming and aggressive initiation in team fights. When TSM is doing well, Reginald is at the center, but behind every top mid is an under-appreciated jungle. TheOddOne and Chauster are my keys to the game. It's unlikely these teams, knowing each other as well as they do, make catastrophic mistakes in their lanes 1v1. The jungle that is able to snowball his lane, particularly his mid will be the team that wins.
Reginald and Link have both been trying out bruisers mid, don't expect to see the same boring champions from these teams in every match anymore. TSM will win this game if they can get Reginald rolling and shut down Doublelift early. TSM has a history of being one of the best teams at snowballing early advantages into easy wins, and CLG has never had the best early game. I think TSM needs this game more than CLG for morale, but it will be a tough road.
CLG will win this game if Chauster is able to snowball the early game enough early. This is a team that is notorious for playing poorly in the lane phase and relying on their teamwork and cohesion to win fights late or split-push to victory. Chauster needs to make plays early so Doublelift can do his thing late and that has been the formula for CLG's success. Both CLG and TSM turn around and play again the same day so they'll have to push this game out of their systems quickly, but I think CLG takes this game.
A lot of people think this game features the two best teams in North America right now, not CLG vs TSM. Dignitas has never been afraid to innovate, and with 1 game matches it is the perfect setting for them to pull off some shenanigans several times this season. Curse is playing better than they ever have of late, and every lane seems to be clicking. These two teams have long been the afterthought in North America after TSM and CLG and for good reason. Neither has enjoyed the level of success as the teams in the first match have, but if I were a betting man, I would say that changes in Season 3. My first bold prediction this season is that the winner of the North America LCS plays in the second match not the first.
The match-up to watch in this game will be in the top lane this game. Kiwikidi is Dignitas new top lane and hasn't ever competed with the team on LAN. He'll have to show the public his skills against Dignitas' former star Voyboy. When Dignitas was truly feared in North America was when Voyboy was on top of his game in the top lane for them. He left for CLG and was never the same player for them, but that has all changed since he found his way to Curse. Voyboy's champion pool and willingness to play to win lane instead of not to lose will be one of the major stories of this game, and if Dignitas wants to win they should shut him down.
Dignitas wins if they are able to control the solo lanes for Curse and not give Saint anywhere to gank. Curse wants to get map control and pressure teams, but if Saint suddenly has nowhere to gank and finds his jungle constricted, Curse will struggle. They aren't a team that traditionally plays well from behind, and Dignitas has always team fought very well. The bottom lane should be a close affair, so the solo lanes and objective control will spell victory or defeat for Dignitas.
Curse will win if they can get Voyboy or Nyjacky rolling. Curse likes to play weird champions all over, from support Fiddlesticks to jungle Ezreal or tank Katarina top. They can certainly take Dignitas off-guard and give themselves an early advantage that they can translate into an opening win. Curse closes games well of late, but struggles at times to figure out what to do when even or slightly behind. They need an early lead and that means solo lanes making plays in tandem with Saintvicious. This is the game to watch for me in week 1 and I think Dignitas squeaks out a close game.
This match is always hyped as a grudge match since many of the players from Curse are former CLG players that have been 'benched'. There might not be as much ill-will as the public thinks between these two teams, but the matches always seem to have a big brother versus little brother feel to them. CLG has gotten the better of Curse in almost every single match towards the end of Season 2, including in the World Championship qualifiers. Curse has to prove they are a better team now, or maybe CLG just has to show they've regressed.
The match-up to watch in this game is in the bottom lane. Doublelift is known as one of the top AD carries in the world for a reason, but his synergy with Aphromoo will be put to the test as they square-off against Copp and Elementz. Curse's bottom lane has never been their strongest point, but needs to hold serve against CLG's, or they will find themselves on the wrong end of another match defeat screen.
Curse wins this match if they are able to shut down bottom lane and not allow Chauster to snowball everywhere else. Saintvicious plays a bit too aggressive at times against CLG, and he will have to control that tendency while being an asset to the team. The new jungle suits him well and he is able to play a variety of jungles in it. Both Saint and Voyboy are returning to their previous top forms at the right time and they should be able to punish the solos of CLG.
CLG wins this game if Doublelift gets farm and the games long enough. CLG has traditionally played better as the game goes on and prefers lengthy games where their experience and mechanics shine. CLG's cohesion might not be the same without Bigfatjiji, but Doublelift has the ability to outplay anyone late if given the opportunity. CLG needs to play to his strengths and not lose early. I think Curse comes into this game needing this win badly, and is able to control the game early and take it home.
Those are just 3 of the matches in week 1, as many other have the ability to be instant classics. You can find the full schedule for week 1 here. What games will you be watching, who wins them, and why? Let us know in the comment section!
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