Following a pretty high-caliber play-in stage, the group stage was expected to be just as contested. And while group A was an incredibly exciting section of the tournament, the rest of the groups played out simply, and honestly, were pretty boring. So, now in the quarterfinals, the hopes are that the excitement can pick back up, considering each of the eight teams remaining proved themselves as miles above the rest. Coming up first in these exciting matchups is a rematch of the LCK summer finals: Damwon v. DRX.
When looking back several weeks to the final between Damwon and DRX, there is little to be positive about on DRX’s side. The 3-0 wasn’t competitive in the slightest, and proved how big of a gap lies between the top LCK team, and the rest. With two incredibly group stage performances, many might still think an upset is possible, but when looking at the details of their play, it’s still hard for me to see that happening.
When analyzing both teams’ statistics in their past six games, both are incredibly positive, to no one’s surprise. But while both teams managed to take huge leads in the early game, and close-out, a deeper dive provides insight into the main differences between each squad. DRX’s main strengths came from their lanes passively winning, picking up over 50 CS more than their opponents by the 15-minute mark (which is f*cking ridiculous by the way), and thus sporting almost a 3,000 gold lead by that time. Damwon took the opposite approach, taking almost every objective physically possible, as soon as possible. With an 80.8% dragon rate, and a 91.7% herald and baron rate, they’re always the first team to make rotations and gain map control. As a result, they just about double DRX’s dragons at 15, heralds per game, and barons per game. They also didn’t let a single first turret fall in all six of their games, where DRX let two go early. This presents a large problem for DRX, in my opinion. Damwon’s laners are significantly better than two of the three teams in DRX’s group, meaning their advantages can no longer come passively, and instead, they need to be more proactive.
The other difference comes through where they play around. I was incredibly surprised to see both teams’ damage numbers and gold numbers being relatively similar at each position, but when glancing at their champion pools, and thus playstyles, they couldn’t be more different. DRX plays heavy to bottom lane advantage, picking up incredibly dominant ADC’s like Caitlyn and even Draven, alongside enchanters or enablers like Lulu and Lux. Because the lane often lacks utility, that has to be picked up elsewhere, often dedicated to their solo laners. Chovy enjoys self-sufficient roamers and facilitators, like Galio, Sett, and Twisted Fate, in order to aid both his jungle and bottom lane. Doran is relegated to the weak side, playing three Ornn games, and a Maokai. His job is surviving lane long enough to engage a fight, and peel for their bottom lane that’s theoretically ahead. You can see this specifically with their losses, where Jackeylove was able to outdo Deft in lane, and therefore left them effectively helpless when teamfights came later.
Damwon, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about their ADC Ghost. Instead, they put BeryL on a variety of roaming supports (like pantheon, bard, or leona), and dominate the top side of the map while Ghost is left to farm. Ghost’s champion pool is then focused around utility, playing Jhin, Senna, or Ashe in five of the six games. Both solo laners are then allowed to play aggressive, with the jungle and support pressuring their side of the map. You can see this, once again, just with champion picks. Showmaker favors assassins, and damage dealers like Ekko, Sylas, and Syndra. Nuguri played two Kennen games, a carry Sett game, and a Camille game. And even his Lulu game, while technically being an enchanter, had an intense amount of kill pressure over his opponent, as he harassed him to no end.
These clashing playstyles once again leave DRX at a disadvantage, with Damwon having two lanes to consistently play around, and DRX having only one. But another passive advantage from this, is in champion select. DRX didn’t draw many Camille bans, because Doran doesn’t really play her. Damwon instead drew four out of the six games, because Nuguri on Camille might as well be game over for the enemy top lane. And as long as Damwon can get rid of game-dominating bottom lane picks, like Caitlyn, I don’t see a huge avenue for DRX to win.
Can Doran neutralize Nuguri?
Nuguri is possibly the best top laner in the world, only being challenged by a few LPL tops. But if Doran can play a masterful weak side, on champions like Ornn, he can be taken down through abusing his overaggression. This is harder than it looks. It’s not enough to not die. Doran needs to stop heralds, from losing his tower, and from getting too far behind in either EXP or farm. People have done it before, and nothing is impossible.
What happens when Canyon doesn’t get Graves?
Five out of the six performances thus far from Damwon feature Canyon on Graves, and he’s played it masterfully so far, with a huge 8.4 KDA. But what happens to the jungle, and to his pressure, when that pick is challenged or even banned?
Will Pyosik get his once one-trick, Kindred again?
Before this tournament, I was impressed by many Kindreds, but Pyosik’s performances are out of this world. The camp timings, the knowledge of enemy pathing, and more, have allowed him to pick up several early stacks. Sometimes to the point of having three, by 7 minutes. This champion gives DRX another option to play around, so if the bottom lane goes down, they still have a carry.
Can Ghost not feed?
So far, Ghost has shown some of the best ADC performances at the tournament, with a 10 KDA exiting groups. But unless DRX decide to change-up their playstyle, they’ll likely try to take advantage of the solo marksman, whenever BeryL isn’t there. If Ghost can manage to be relevant, without playing too aggressive, Deft won’t have the advantage necessary to leverage into a victory.
As stated throughout this piece, it’s hard to see a world where DRX suddenly start beating Damwon. But I do think, in the heat of battle, players like Chovy and even Deft (if he’s healthy) can pull out a monster play or two, to shift the tides of a game. Because of that, I’m giving them a possibility of taking a game, and predicting a 3-1 victory for Damwon.
Stay tuned for more of these over this week!