The playoffs are finally here. Nine weeks of regular season play has seen the LCO’s eight teams become five playoff contenders — all vowing for the LCO Split 1 title and a trip to the Mid-Season Invitational.
After tonight, five will become four as Order and the Dire Wolves face off in a do-or-die lower bracket matchup. But before that, Peace and Pentanet will open up the battle for MSI with a 2021 Split 2 Grand Final rematch.
The first two LCO champions will clash in what should be a hard-fought matchup, with the winner moving on to face the titans that are The Chiefs in the upper bracket final tomorrow. For the loser — a ticket straight to the lower bracket to await the victor of Order & Dire Wolves.
Join myself, and my fellow predictions writers Harry Taylor & San Hoàng as we break down the first game of the day, as Peace square up against Pentanet.
The Panel Picks: Pentanet.GG (Unanimous Decision)
Taylor: The battle for the Mid-Season Invitational begins with a 2021 Split 2 Grand Final rematch. Defending champions Peace take on 2021 MSI heroes Pentanet in the opening upper bracket matchup. Both teams have been rather strong at times throughout the split — but have too shown signs of their weaknesses.
Peace has had a significant slowdown in their ability as a team throughout the split. After a blistering 10-1 record at the halfway point of the split, they went 5-5 to close out the regulation season, with losses to the Chiefs, Pentanet and Gravitas in that time. It’s hard to point a finger at exactly what went wrong within the Peace house in the last month, but whatever it may be, it has been a significant detriment to their current performance.
Pentanet, however, started slowly. Their Korean superstars Choi “BalKhan” Hyun-jin and Cha “Yuri” Hee-min arrived in the country less than 72 hours before the start of the split, which saw them struggle early, finding themselves not quite on the same page at times and not drafting well consistently. PGG would find themselves at 7-6 at the end of February; however, in March, the team came alive. They are undefeated thus far and looking like a well oiled and dominant unit.
Despite the series being in the advantage of Peace, I’m tipping this in favour of Pentanet. Their recent dominance streak, especially when compared to Peace’s recent sloppiness simply cannot be ignored. I do however expect Peace to tighten it up and bring their absolute best which will lead to a competitive series.
Pentanet.GG 3-2 Peace
Hoàng: Pentanet.GG comes into playoffs looking like a true juggernaut.
They’ve been improving steadily throughout the Split and keenly winning their past eight matches, including their most recent match against Peace in Week 7.
Choi “BalKhan” Hyun-jin continues to devastate the map when his hand is hot — favouring the likes of Lee Sin, Diana and Jarvan IV. Without a doubt, he is the catalyst of the Perth squad’s early game and is often the decisive factor in their late-game engagements.
Plus, it seems Cha “Yuri” Hee-min’s download of Oceanic mids may be nearing completion; his wide-champion pool has provided the Pentanet a lot of compositional flexibility, which could lend itself to series play. Across from him in mid is Yao “Apii” Jian-Jing who has proven he’s no pushover in the lane.
Despite the late-season setbacks: the Dragon’s Den still boasts even regular split win-loss record on par with Pentanet, they do hold the minor distinction of 2-1 head-to-head against the Mark “Praedyth” Lewis’ side.
Peace’s top lane threat Romeo “Thien” Tran could be a gateway into the matchup. But I don’t think he outclasses Kim “Winterer” Dong-geun in a meaningful way that could carry over consecutive games.
Thomas “LeeSA” Ma will have to muster a Herculean effort tonight. He and the team will not only have to somehow nullify BalKhan’s early game — a trial in itself — but they’ll have to do it at least three times and come out with a winning lead.
Going late for the ultraviolet angle for Wang “Chayon” Yun-Cheng to come online means Praedyth will likely be solidly built too (assuming he’s not too greedy on free mid-waves). Though it doesn’t look like the legacy marksmen has been pushed all that much throughout the split; teams were content to let him pilot Jinx (10 picks), Aphelios (4) and Zeri (3) — leaving opponents having to compete with a surplus of late-game damage.
Right now, I can only see Peace stalling Pentanet.GG’s series victory by a game or so.
Pentanet.GG 3-1 Peace
Perry: I was hyped for this match a few weeks out as PGG looked a squad on the rise and Peace still held a shade of their early dominance.
Now a matter of hours out, I’m wary of a stomp as Peace have cratered — I’m barely convinced by their wins, and their losses have been heinous.
Meanwhile Perth Internet Dot GG have had a rocket strapped to them and they’re delivering some incredible games.
The dynamic duo has been Choi “BalKhan” Hyun-jin and Cha “Yuri” Hee-min. Both have been incredible in the early game, and this has in turn given room for the bot lane to flourish — the chief beneficiary of which being a return to peak form for Jake “Rogue” Sharwood.
If you’ve been watching Oceanic League of Legends long enough, you know that Rogue’s as scary a support as we’ve produced, and that includes Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw and Bryce “EGym” Paule (the latter perhaps not having his own peak overlap with Rogue’s, for the sake of historical fairness). The ability to absolutely monster an individual game from the support role is a feature of PGG that Peace just do not have.
This is not to belittle David “Beats” Nguyen-Dang – it’s just not a role they ask him to play. Peace’s major advantage lies in Wang “Chayon” Yun-Cheng over the course of a best of 5. If they can have Yao “Apii” Jian-Jing nullify Yuri and make the Bo5 about the bot lane, then they can exploit champion pools through the ban phase and stretch Mark “Praedyth” Lewis to his limits.
But if they can’t control mid, and the AD bans remain fairly standard, then I think PGG has enough to cover Peace comfortably.
Pentanet.GG 3-0 Peace
The first LCO playoff match of 2022 kicks off from 5PM AEST. Catch up on all the split details in our ultimate coverage hub.