The Oceanic Pro League (OPL) Spring Regular Split 2017 has officially finished. The top five teams are now preparing themselves for the new gauntlet playoff format that will determine the OPL champions. The winner of which will then go on to represent Oceania internationally at the Mid- Season Invitational (MSI). The outcome of the OPL Regular Split was generally expected, with the top-dogs Chiefs, Legacy and Dire Wolves qualifying comfortably for playoffs. Dire Wolves scraped ahead to take the first seed, Legacy secured the second, and finally, Chiefs took the third. The final two teams that qualified for playoffs were Sin Gaming and Avant Garde. They were both undeniably a tier above the other teams who finished below them in the standings. What can we expect of the OPL Spring Split 2017 playoffs? Will Chiefs continue their streak and pick up a fifth consecutive OPL title? Or will Sin Gaming or Avant Garde be able to pull an upset?
Match 1: Sin Gaming vs. Avant Garde
Expected Result: Avant Garde 3-2 Sin Gaming
Players to watch out for in this series:
Sin Gaming: Rogue
Avant Garde: Triple
Sin Gaming has had a tumultuous split having won both of their regular split series against Legacy, as well as taking games from both Chiefs and Dire Wolves. On the other hand, they suffered defeat in both of their regular split series to Avant Garde, their first opponent in the gauntlet. The Sin Gaming team plays in a highly aggressive style, putting pressure on in all three lanes and constantly looking for skirmishes all over the map. Their team also recently acquired an upgrade for their mid-lane, with the addition of Ryoma to the roster. Ryoma is an individual upgrade on Wzrd, as well as being another highly aggressive player who fits in well stylistically with the team. Deciding whether or not to place Sin Gaming or Avant Garde in 5th place was a difficult decision, as both teams are very evenly matched. Either could potentially win the first series of the gauntlet.
Ultimately, I have decided to rank Sin Gaming in 5th for a number of reasons. Firstly, the highly aggressive style that Sin plays is inconsistent as they look to aggressively build an early gold lead and snowball the game from this. This frequently has their team making high risk plays which can have catastrophic consequences in failure. One way this is shown is through their shotcaller and jungler, Juves, who has the highest number of deaths per game of any player in the OPL with Ryoma following very closely behind. This leads into the second reason why I am placing Sin Gaming in 5th place, Triple. Since his debut for Avant Garde, Triple has consistently proven himself to be one of the best mid-laners in the OPL. He has time and time again put the whole team on his shoulders to win the game in clutch situations. Finally, the consistency of Avant Garde in the regular split is the reason why I predict them to win this series. Avant Garde has won every series which they have played against a team that was not Chiefs, Legacy or Dire Wolves, including both sets against Sin Gaming.
If Sin Gaming is to succeed in this series, then one should look towards the team’s support, Rogue. The Sin Gaming bot-lane has proven successful against the best of teams through their support playing highly aggressive champions such as Thresh and Zyra and consistently netting 2v2 kills as well as aggressively making picks across the map. Whilst I expect Avant Garde to take this series, it is incredibly close to call and will undoubtedly be a highly contested victory for the team that wins.
Expected Match 2: Chiefs vs. Avant Garde
Expected Result: Chiefs 3-0 Avant Garde
Players to watch out for:
Avant Garde: Triple
Sin Gaming: Flaresz
The winner of the first series in the gauntlet will have the unenviable task of playing against the most dominant and successful team in Oceanic history, the Chiefs. Having consecutively won the previous four OPL titles, and fresh from a bootcamp in America, regardless of whether they face off against Sin Gaming or Avant Garde, this is expected to be a 3-0 win for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have an incredibly strong mid-jungle synergy between Spookz and Swiffer. Spookz is very good at recognising where his team has pressure and can quickly turn this pressure into an objective and gold lead for his team. The reason why Spookz and Swiffer pair very well together is because Swiffer will always be looking to get out of his lane to start a skirmish, or push down an objective with his jungler on other parts of the map. This superior understanding of how to translate pressure into a gold lead, and eventually, a victory, is the primary reason why I place Chiefs as the 3-0 winner, regardless of which opponent they face. Another reason is that the AD Carry on Chiefs Raes is a tier above Blinky and FBI. If the Chiefs do not build a large advantage in the early game, then Raes can be relied upon to be a big carry in teamfights in a way the Avant Garde and Sin Gaming Carries cannot be.
If Avant Garde is to beat the Chiefs, then it would occur through an exceptionally good performance from their mid-laner Triple. Swiffer, whilst having a very strong map and roaming presence, does have a weaker laning phase. This is, however, the only place where I can see Avant Garde having any pressure. I believe it is unlikely that they will be able to pick up a game from this. It is my view that Sin Gaming would have the better matchup and higher chance of picking up a game against the Chiefs. This is due to the fact that their ‘Feast or Famine’ gameplay style can result in a game where one of their lanes gains a huge lead and the high pressure and aggressive style from Sin Gaming could result in a swift snowball victory. In addition to this, the player that I believe is the weakest link in the Chiefs, Swip3Rr, will not be punished by Ceres, who plays a very supportive role for his team. Comparatively, Flaresz has proven himself capable of playing carries and punishing his lane opponents. Regardless of this, it is extremely unlikely that either team will be able to take a game from the Chiefs, let alone the series.
Expected Match 3: Chiefs vs. Legacy
Expected Result: Chiefs 3-2 Legacy
Players to watch out for:
Legacy has arguably been the only team to rival the Chiefs over the previous four splits of dominance that the Chiefs have displayed. Unfortunately, they have fallen short every time, with the Chiefs always taking the victory over their rivals. This year, I expect nothing different and whilst I foresee this being a very close series, I am quite confident that this will be a Chiefs victory.
The gameplay that Legacy brings to the table through their shotcaller, Carbon, could always be described as slow, methodical and the correct way to play the game. Perhaps this is why Sin Gaming were able to take away both sets from them this season, because Sin Gaming play a hyper-aggressive style and do not adhere to the rules. The mid-jungle duo of Spookz and Swiffer is once again the reason why I believe Chiefs will have the edge over Legacy in this series. In order for Legacy to win this series, they will need to control Swiffer and tie him down to his lane. Claire has proven to be the weakest of the top 3 teams’ mid-laners in the OPL this split, and it is unlikely that he will be up to the task required of him. I do expect Legacy to be able to pick up games in this series due to the huge disparity in the top lane between Swip3Rr and Tally. Tally is a player that has proven that he can perform in high pressure situations and has been the main reason Legacy has taken games in the past, punishing the poor laning phase of Swip3Rr and then using that pressure to get his team ahead or win the game through the split push. In addition to this, Legacy have also picked up AD Carry Lost, who has already proven himself to be one of the best mechanical players on the server and can be expected to pop off at least once this series. Whilst I am confident in Legacy being able to take a game or two from the Chiefs, I believe that the Chiefs will come out on top in the end against their rivals.
Expected Match 4: Dire Wolves vs Chiefs
Expected Result: Dire Wolves 3-1 Chiefs
Players to watch out for:
Dire Wolves: Shernfire
It could be argued that the Dire Wolves have the best individual players in every position in the OPL. The prowess that this team brings to the table in laning phase is unrivalled by any other team in the region. It allows them to create multiple points of pressure with which to force down towers and objectives. Dire Wolves had fallen short earlier in the split, largely due to poor team coordination outside of the laning phase, resulting in poor teamfighting and getting caught out. This has, however, mostly been cleaned up with the team not having lost a series since week 4, and going into playoffs, they are looking very strong with improved team coordination.
I expect Dire Wolves to take this series 3-1 against both Chiefs and Legacy for several reasons. The Dire Wolves mid-laner, Phantiks will be capable of forcing pressure in the mid-lane and confining the Chiefs mid-laner to his lane. Therefore, this would limit the Chief’s ability to set up skirmishes and roams with their relied upon mid-jungle duo. In addition to this, Dire Wolves uses the lane pressure they generate to obtain deep wards in the enemy jungle from a very early point in the game. From this, Shernfire will then track the enemy jungler’s position through the early stages of the game. The laning strength of Phantiks, Chippys and King/Destiny will also mean that the Chiefs should not have the map pressure which Spookz relies on in order to be able to force down objectives early in the game. The reasoning why I would foresee a Legacy loss is for similar reasons. Legacy’s usually strong pressure lanes in bottom and top are negated by the strengths of the Dire Wolves laning phases. The Dire Wolves can look to exploit the mid-lane, where Phantiks can be expected to build an advantage against Claire. The Dire Wolves is the team to beat in the final round of the gauntlet only have to prepare for 1 series. They can spend the whole duration preparing for just that single series, unlike Legacy and Chiefs who have to prepare for multiple. It is for these reasons that I predict a strong Dire Wolves victory, regardless of which opponent that they face.
Whilst Chiefs and Legacy may not bring the individual capabilities that the Dire Wolves bring in each role, both teams will have better team coordination. If the Dire Wolves do not build an advantage in the laning phase through their superior individual talent, then it will be likely that the Dire Wolves will suffer defeats in this series. I trust that this situation would occur at least once in each series for both Chiefs and Legacy, and would expect both teams to pick up at least one game. It is also for this reason that I would rate the chances of success for the Legacy line up as being higher in a matchup against the Dire Wolves than I would of the Chiefs. The weakest player on the Chiefs, Swip3Rr is an order of magnitude weaker than his counterpart than Claire is in comparison to Phantiks. I therefore see it as more likely that Legacy can make it to the stage in the game, where having better coordination between players will be a factor, without being in a significant gold deficit. However, provided that the Dire Wolves retain their form from the second half of the season, it should be expected for them to take the OPL title fairly convincingly and go on to represent Oceania at MSI.