2020 really has finished. And with the new year comes about ten months of mind-blowing plays and record-setting games! The LCS starts this weekend on Jan. 15th, and here are the things to look for, that will likely determine the victors of the weekend!
1. Overall Jungle Performance
When the first preseason patch hit, the jungle was full of nothing but Zacs and Amumus, but in the process of preseason balancing and apparently pro scrimmages, the tanks completely left the jungle. The top picks are similar to last year’s—Nidalee, Graves, Olaf, etc.—with a Pantheon thrown in. That means the jungler is going to play an even more important role in the success of their team—which by the end of last season, was the focal point necessary to win games. I’m not saying the heavier the carry jungler the easier it’ll be to win, but if you suck it up on Nidalee, it’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole.
2. Early Game Playmaking
Much like the role of the jungler, the overall playstyle of last season seems to have carried over to 2021. With Pantheon being the most versatile and high-priority pick, early snowballs are fairly common. And if mythic items did anything, they increased the value of early gold. If you can hit that Luden’s Echo power spike before your opponent, you’re sitting in a great place—and don’t get me started on Goredrinker. Also with the exception of ADC (with Kais’a, Aphelios, and Samira), most roles don’t scale all that well (the top lane is full of Gnars and Jayces, Graves scales but Olaf and Nidalee don’t). Last spring we saw what TL did in response to the new meta—nothing—and they fell to ninth because of that. Teams will once again have to accept the quick pace, or pray the enemy throws the game away… which I guess is a fair hope in the LCS…
3. Strong Individual Champion Pools
When a meta hasn’t really settled in, the players often fall back to comfort. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a DoubleLift Lucian or a PowerOfEvil Viktor by the end of the weekend because of it (both of those champions are pretty meta too, so that wouldn’t even be that crazy). So those with more “comfortable” champions have an easy edge in the champ select process, when the power picks have been taken away. Champion pool always matters, but never more than it was in the first week.
4. How Many Players Are Returning?
The lesson you should take from both this, and the champion pool point, is that basics are incredibly valuable at the start. Any sort of teamwork basis sheds the rust off of that portion of the game, which is arguably more important than individual performance. Cloud9 were the perfect example of chemistry over pure talent, with their first team lasting about three years to enormous success. And less-talented teams can steal a few games if their prior rapport is higher than their opponent’s.
5. Dragon Control
The longer the game goes, the more prone you are to mistakes—and when you’re without practice, that’s even more true. Picking up early dragons helps put the game on a timer, and close out earlier. Thus, the team that picks up the early dragons has complete control over the pace, even if slightly behind. Dragon control is, of course, always great. Much like all of these keys. But unless your late game decision-making is fantastic, you don’t want to find yourself behind in tempo.