On paper, this is the lower-bracket final. In reality however, this is for all the marbles. Despite there being one more match after this — possibly under the glitz and the glamour of the DreamHack banner in Melbourne next month — this is the one that the Wolves and Chiefs really want.
We’re going back to the future as the LCO ends the week in the same fashion that it started: Chiefs vs Dire Wolves.
That match was not close.
So, the question ahead of a prediction is: What’s changed?
In theory — not much. DW are still a flawed team that makes completely bamboozling decisions.
Mark “Praedyth” Lewis seems to steadfastly refuse to learn from his mistakes. At this point he can’t not be aware that he dies on mid wave a lot, and that everybody knows he dies on mid wave a lot. He can’t keep catching waves so far from safety then say “Well, gee, I didn’t think they’d be looking for it”.
It’s a shame because he’s otherwise performed well this year.
Kim “Poltron” Nicholls is not at the level of the other players, but it works for them because his biggest strength is that he always knows the role he has to perform for his team.
Not Chief Magical Journey Officer, the other role.
For all of Cameron “zorenous” Abbott’s tremendous improvement, he’s still a poor man’s Brandon “BioPanther” Alexander.
In short, I think that mid lane is the only one that Dire Wolves enter the match with what I would term a clear edge in. And even if the other aspects of the match go against them, Chiefs can always default to “make this match about Raes vs Praedyth and win it like we have basically every single time”.
But matches aren’t played in theory, and everything around this match has changed.
Most obviously, this time the pressure is on. There’s no more second chances.
I haven’t liked how The Chiefs have looked after a loss so far since we left best-of-one play. I had high hopes after they showed exactly the formula to beat Bliss in game four — get an early edge in the jungle and nullify their proactivity.
But they went right back to old habits in game five, and Bliss remain the best team we have in just…detonating on a team’s mistakes.
They showed their patience, waited for one slip from The Chiefs, and exploded.
If Dire Wolves have prepared for this, they can exploit it. They have the personnel to do this precise thing. It requires them not to be the ones to make that slip-up (Praedyth) and it also requires them not to let Quin “Raes” Korebrits run away with the series (Praedyth).
To me, it’s either going to come down to a Raes gap…or, more likely mid-jungle duos enabling their team to win the first major skirmish or group fight around minute 15-20. That fight has been determinative all year long.
This is why The Chiefs’ game four win was so encouraging – they pre-empted it by running into the Bliss jungle, and walking out with two kills and a blue buff onto Raes, before Babip went mid and killed a flash-less Annie for free.
Now, they won’t get a flash-less Annie for free necessarily in this series – so the pressure is on Leo “Babip” Romer and Ronald “Kisee” Vo to set their team up to win these fights.
Kisee in particular was poor yesterday and has an even tougher test ahead of him today in the form of Jesse “Chazz” Mahoney.
Frankly, I wonder if The Chiefs have the mental fortitude to win today. I never would have doubted that before. But this combination of five players haven’t shown enough backbone to win a best of five unless it’s 3-0.
And they can definitely 3-0 the Dire Wolves. If I was able to fence-sit this, I would say “Dire Wolves 3-2, or Chiefs 3-0”. But I can’t.
Normally, I would say that in an Oceanic best-of-five, you always pick the team that has the most talent across all five players. That’s The Chiefs. And I wish I had a better reason to give you to deviate from this conventional wisdom than what amounts to “The Vibes Are Off”.
But they really are off with this set of players. While they are the more talented collection of players, and I can easily see them winning this series, I just can’t bring myself to pick them to get over the line today.
It’s the Wolfpack for me, 3-2.
LCO Playoffs Day 4 Predictions
The LCO sends its final team to PCS playoffs from 6pm AEDT tonight. Keep up to date with the split details on our ultimate coverage hub.