IEM 2016 Katowice Preview: You Can Bet That The Weekend’s LoL Matchups Will Be Thrilling, Upsetting

IEM Katowice eSports bets preview
Starting today, March 4, and running through the end of the weekend will be the League of Legends portion of the Intel Extreme Masters Season X event in Katowice, Poland.

There will be a total of eight teams battling it out for the $500,000 prize.

Counter Logic Gaming, Origen, ESC Ever, and Qiao Gu are the qualifying teams from previous IEM events while Team SoloMid, SK Telecom T1, Fnatic, and Royal Never Give Up received direct invites to participate.

We’re here to preview each team, give some eSports betting predictions and in-depth analysis, and get you caught up on all the previous action.

Group A Analysis

Team SoloMid (North America – 18.50 odds)

Team SoloMid enters IEM Katowice looking like a shell of the team we saw last year. Their play has been inconsistent all year, playing down to the level of their competition during the 2016 LCS Spring Split.

During the offseason, TSM essentially built an entirely new roster around their star midlaner, Bjergsen. WildTurtle was replaced by former Counter Logic Gaming AD Carry, DoubleLift. At the time, this was considered a needed upgrade.

Following the retirement of Lustboy, TSM also brought in Fnatic superstar YellOwStaR to support DoubleLift, creating potentially one of the most dominant bottom lane duos seen in NA LCS history. That has yet to fully materialize this year, however.

Arguably the best addition so far, and the most consistent player for TSM, has surprisingly been top laner Hauntzer. He’s done a remarkable job of replacing Dyrus, which was one of the main concerns heading into this season for TSM.

The biggest disappointment has been Svenskeren in the jungle. He was severely outplayed by Team Liquid’s Dardoch last week, missing easy skill shots and finding himself out of position multiple times. With each week that passes, Svenskeren starts to look more and more like former TSM jungler Santorin, who was let go during the offseason for his declined play.

While it’s unfair to compare the immediate success of Immortals to TSM’s struggles, we’re almost through an entire split and TSM has yet to look like a team that can consistently dominate in North America let alone on the international stage.

This is still an incredibly talented roster, and on an individual basis they can compete with the other seven teams at Katowice. The team needs to quickly get on the same wave length though, as their coordination has been their biggest downfall this year. All phases of the game, from laning phase to objective control mid-to-late game, has just looked off.

Can TSM fix their issues before IEM? It’s highly unlikely, and they currently have the third lowest odds of the eight teams entering tomorrow.

Origen (Europe – 23.12 odds)

Much like TSM, Origen entered the Spring Split with high expectations following their success at last year’s World Championship. And just like TSM, they have largely disappointed this year.

The loss of coach Tadayoshi “Hermit” Littleton, who now coaches for NA team NRG eSports, has hurt the strategy development of the team. xPeke has also gone into semiretirement, letting Powerofevil have an opportunity to show his worth. That hasn’t been a seamless transition, but not all of it is Powerofevil’s fault.

Even last year, before the offseason changes, Origen had difficulty team fighting. That part of their game has become an even bigger weakness. Their lack of coordination as a team and their inability to properly secure objective is the main reason Origen currently sits at 7-7 in the EU LCS. Unless Origen miraculously figures out how to play together in a week, those issues will be the downfall of Origen at IEM.

Origen is currently tied with fellow European powerhouse Fnatic with the worst eSports betting odds at winning IEM Katowice.

ESC Ever (Korea – 12.40 odds)

ESC Ever is the equivalent to a challenger team. They’re always loaded with talent, but the lack of an organizational structure or strong leadership presence means they have a difficult time retaining their star players.

No one can accurately predict how this squad will perform on the big stage in an international tournament. They shocked everyone at IEM Cologne when they took down CJ and SKT last year. That was with Athena in the mid lane however, who has now moved on to play for Edward Gaming. Support player Key is also returning from a self-imposed ban for Elo boosting and is still getting back into the swing of things.

At best, Ever is a team still regrouping and trying to find their way (a reoccurring theme for most of the teams that will be featured at IEM Katowice). Don’t expect the same squad that pulled out a win at IEM Cologne. Their strategy this split has been to play very conservatively and to wait for key moments, such as top lane teleporting in with numbers advantage, to secure team fight wins and objectives.

They’ve also been prone to making mistakes in the pick and ban phase and not reforming to the current meta. They currently have better odds then both the NA and EU squads but rank below the other three Asian teams.

Royal Never Give Up (China – 4.27 odds)

Royal started out strong in the LPL but has recently struggled to maintain their dominance. With that said, they still currently sit as the top team in their LPL division. Much like NA squad Team Liquid, Royal features a full 10-man roster rotation. This can be both a benefit (it allows players to stay fresh and competitive amongst each other) as well as a disadvantage (cohesion and unity is an issue at times).

Royal will have a strong advantage against teams that lack the necessary tools to team fight early and often. They thrive at creating chaos early, and their early aggression has usually paid off this year in the LPL. They like to take risks, which could make them susceptible to counter plays in the right matchup.

Chinese teams have also historically struggled in international tournaments (just look at last year’s Worlds for the most recent example). Despite this, they’re a strong favorite, and currently have the second best odds of winning IEM.

Group B Analysis

Counter Logic Gaming (North America – 15.04 odds)

Counter Logic Gaming enters IEM Katowice riding high with wins over previously undefeated Immortals and a strong Cloud 9 team.

Stixxay, Doublelift’s replacement, has played solid as of late. Xmithie has also really stepped his game up since the beginning of the split. Meanwhile, Darshan is still the split pushing beast that he has become known for. If a Western team can pull off the upset over the perceived stronger Asian squads, odds favor CLG.

While CLG looks like a solid contender in the NA LCS, we still have to question how they will perform on the international stage. They didn’t look particularly well at the last IEM tournament, especially Huhi in the midlane.

They’ve continued to improve since then though, and I expect a much tougher and well-polished squad at IEM Katowice. They currently have the fifth best odds of winning the tournament, but considering every team here has obvious weaknesses, they provide great upset potential.

Fnatic (European – 23.12 odds)

Fnatic falls in the same category as Origen and TSM: a strong team last year that had roster/coaching turnover and is still trying to regroup. Both Huni and Reignover left for NA squad Immortals. As noted earlier, support player YellOwStaR also left for TSM.

After starting with Noxiak in the support position at the beginning of the split, early struggles led the team to replacing him with Klaj. Their performance hasn’t improved much, and they remain a mid-tier team in the EU LCS alongside Origen.

While there are question marks surrounding all of the teams at IEM Katowice, Fnatic enters the tournament with perhaps the most pronounced weaknesses. They were embarrassed against Splyce, one of the worst teams in the EU LCS. There’s too many inconsistencies during team fights and evident issues with team unity.

It would be a major upset if they even get out of group stage. They currently are tied with Origen with the worst odds of winning the tournament.

SK Telecom T1 (Korea – 4.49 odds)

Current World Champions, SKT has struggled in the LCK this year after significant roster turnover during the offseason. Top laner and Worlds MVP, Marin, has left the team to join LGD. Backup midlaner, Easyhoon, shared significant time with Faker last year but has left the team for a full time starting position with Vici Gaming.

Just like TSM, this team is still individually strong, but they’ve struggled all year to play as one cohesive unit. Losses to teams like Afreeca are not only surprising but embarrassing for an organization that is used to contending every year.

SKT is still stronger than any of the North American or European teams, but they may struggle against the likes of Qiao Gu and Royal.

Jungler Bengi needs to step up, as he’s really struggled this split. Marin’s replacement, Duke, has had moments of mental lapses where he just reverts to split pushing most of the game. Bang has continued to be one of the most dominant ADC’s in the game, however.

And then, of course, there’s still Faker in the mid lane. He’s had to play every game now with the absence of Easyhoon, but it hasn’t affected his ability to maintain his image as the best player in the world.

It’s not often that SKT isn’t the favorite in an international tournament, but this will provide a great opportunity for SKT to regain some of their former glory. They currently have the third best odds of winning the tournament.

I don’t expect a world championship performance, but considering the past performances of LPL squads and the struggles of both European and North American teams, I have a hard time picking against them in this tournament.

Qiao Gu (China – 3.64 odds)

Enter current favorite and the most complete team, Qiao Gu. In fact, many prognosticators believe Qiao Gu is currently the best team in the world. They placed second at IEM Cologne behind ESC Ever, narrowly losing in a 2-3 series final, and also have an impressive 7-0 record in their LPL division.

They narrowly missed making it to Worlds in 2015 after having a phenomenal season last year, and they’ve really taken that miss to heart and came back this year with a vengeance (sound familiar? SKT did the same thing last year).

Qiao Gu is filled with superstars at nearly every position, and they thrive playing together as a five-man unit. This is a team that is constantly looking to team fight, even in the early phases of the game. That aggression will pay dividends against the likes of TSM and Fnatic, but they may have difficulty pushing around veteran squads like SKT and Royal.

QG can also become one dimensional at times, and I think the right pick and ban phase against them could lead to difficulties for this team. When it comes to late game though, QG can be a nightmare to play against, with constant aggression and supreme target/flank coordination. They have the best odds of winning the tournament, and nothing short of a top two finish will be acceptable.

Have a look at top eSports bookmakers if you’re planning on betting on any of these matchups – we recommend Bet365, 10bet, Ladbrokes, and Betway for this event.

Rachel Perry

About

Rachel is an avid gamer whose insatiable desire for all things gaming related has been augmented by the inconceivable growth of eSports and how competitive gaming is viewed. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite games, Rachel can be found playing League of Legends, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, or watching too much Twitch.tv.

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