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LoR Competitive Week in Review for 9/6 - 9/12

If I’m being honest, I don’t actually know why there’s a two-week break in between the Worlds Qualifiers and the round of 16. Something I do actually know is that it has given the meta time to breathe and expand, and some new decks have popped up that we might get to see make some breakthrough appearances at Worlds with a little bit of refinement. This week I’ll be taking you on a tour with some of our favorite regulars: all 3 iterations of Giant Slayer’s Fight Night as well as the Online League Series. One thing that we’re paying close attention to aside from the meta is how our Worlds competitors fared in likely their last public appearances before the main event. 

The action started Thursday night with Giant Slayer’s Fight Night Brazil where our two BR representatives, Realkey and KevinLoR, showed off their stuff against some of the region's All-Stars. While Realkey (Plunder/Bandle Tree) picked up the win despite being forced to play a deck other than Bandle Tree, it was runner-up Mafraju (Zoe/Nami/Puffcaps) who stole the show with an old-school take on Frostbite Foundry. Before there was Hextech Foundry (and even a little after for some of the stubborn players), a lot of Teemo/Sejuani decks were actually Starlit Seer decks and even sometimes splashed Feel the Rush, as your champions had relevant keywords like overwhelm and elusive. It was a blast to see a return to a more traditional take on the archetype with some new updates, and I would highly recommend checking out the VODs. Checking in with Kevin, he, unfortunately, fell out before the top 4 with a 1-2 record but would have a chance at a comeback the next day at the Americas Fight Night.

Before we can talk about the AM Fight Night we have to make a pitstop at EU, where Giant Slayer was able to wrangle up 4 of the 5 qualified players into a single tournament. Szychu fell out the earliest in the top 6, followed by Ragnarosich in the top 4. The finals were a clash between the other 2 players, with BaJAtak (Draven Caitlyn/Sivir Demacia) taking the win over Cosimo (Ascended/GPBC). It was a hard-fought final with a bracket reset included, but it was once again the runner-up who stole the show with their unique deck choices. Cosimo piloted mono Shurima to likely the most competitive finish the deck has ever seen thanks to the new Xerath cards and broke out the brand new Gangplank Bandle City deck. The new aggressive Gangplank deck popped up around the middle of the week and is one of the big winners of the extended break between the Qualifiers and the round of 16 for Worlds. We’ll look at some GPBC decks that performed at the OLS a little later on, but the refinement for this deck is happening at a breakneck pace.

The Americas Fight Night was once again graced by Realkey and KevinLoR, this time joined by fellow qualifiers Xeloo and Aikado. Despite running back the same decks as BR Fight Night, Realkey had a much rougher run this time around and joined Xeloo on the same lineup in a 7th/8th place finish. Kevin was able to break through into the top 4 this time but was also eliminated. At the end of the night, it was Aikado (Draven Ezreal/Lulu Poppy) standing alone at the top of the Worlds players, winning the event with a 2-1 victory over Paconormal (Draven Caitlyn/Plunder). On his way to a 4-0 victory, he also knocked Xeloo and Kevin down to the losers bracket, giving him a lot of momentum heading into Worlds. In fact, Aikado is currently on one of the hottest streaks in Legends of Runeterra history. He placed 2nd at a Seasonal less than a month ago and translated that into back-to-back 4-0 runs at the Qualifiers and Fight Night. But I want to diverge from the players for a second and talk about the decks we saw. At the Qualifiers, the most popular decks (for qualifying) were Bandle Tree, Zoe/Nami, Sivir Demacia, and Draven/Caitlyn/Ezreal. While Fight Night is only an 8 player event with 2 decks each, it was still odd to notice a total lack of Sivir Demacia in the AM tournament and an absence of Zoe/Nami in both AM and EU. These 2 decks were joined by Draven/Caitlyn/Ezreal as the most popular lineup in the Qualifiers, so it’ll be very exciting to see the implications of this for the Worlds meta. 

Before we get to Worlds though, it’s time to take a look at our big open event of the weekend, the Online League Series #32. 
1st - Al3x (Draven/Ezreal / Plunder / TF/Swain)
2nd - YUP3G0 (Draven/Caitlyn / Sivir Demacia / TF/GP)

Top 4 - DerivaLOR (Draven/Sion / Lurk / Lulu/Poppy)

Top 4 - drchekhov42 (Draven/Ezreal / GPBC / Sivir Demacia)
Top 8 - FNX Wasrusso (Darkness / Ez Karma / Plunder)

Top 8 - STAN (Draven/Sion / Sivir Demacia / Bandle Tree)

Top 8 - WNG icelot (Lurk/ Zoe/Nami / Lulu/Poppy)

Top 8 - Foreto (Draven/Sion / GPBC / Zoe/Nami)

When you sit and stare at the top 8 for as long as I have, and by extension the entire tournament weekend, you may find yourself left with more questions than answers. Giving the meta time to breathe has certainly made it more exciting, and by extension more difficult to analyze. 

What’s better, Draven/Caitlyn or Draven/Ezreal? While a large majority of the player base seems to have switched over to Draven/Caitlyn, Aikado’s version of Draven/Ezreal has been carrying the archetype, with both Al3x and drchekhov playing it card for card. This is the 2nd tournament this weekend where it beat Draven/Caitlyn in the finals, and now that it’s started to spread only time will tell which champion ends up being more popular at Worlds.

What’s up with Zoe/Nami? While it’s easy to criticize how linear the deck is (hit Nami or Shelly or lose), I think it’s more about timing. Zoe/Nami didn’t start to finalize its builds until a few days before the Qualifiers, meaning there wasn’t enough time for the meta to adapt around it. Even then, from the streams, the community was able to catch it seemed like a lot of players were electing to leave the deck unbanned when running into it. It seems the meta has adapted to it, and I would expect Zoe/Nami to put up numbers more in line with the OLS than the Qualifiers at Worlds. 

BCGP aka Bandle City Gangplank? Not really a question, but I’m more than happy to touch on it. BCGP very well could be the Zoe/Nami of Worlds. The initial archetype dropped in the middle of last week, and the refinement stage has really just begun and the meta will likely not have time to adapt to the final build. There were some major shifts from Friday’s Fight Night to Saturday’s OLS, with drchekhov cutting Double Up and still playing around with the champion lineup. The deck is currently performing very well on the ladder (55%~ winrate in plat+), indicating that the power level is not something we’ll need to call into question. In general, Gangplank decks have been performing well across the board, and he’s shaping up to be one of the most popular champions at Worlds regardless of what shell he finds his way into. 

I thought TF/Swain was dead? Much like Lee Sin, the deck has some obvious on-paper weaknesses against cards like Aloof Travelers and Minimorph. But not every deck you run into is a Bandle City deck. Darkness tends to pop up as a 1 of in top 8s, GPBC is too fast for Minimorph, and the same can be said about Lulu/Poppy Bandle City. With the go-wide nature of the meta right now, Keg + Red Card/Make It Rain is a very powerful combo and Fearsome blockers are once again at an all-time low, making it easier to sneak in a Swain attack. Another byproduct of the go-wide meta is a lack of single target removal for large threats, making the Swain/Leviathan lock difficult to break for most decks. Not all, but that's what your ban is for.

There are many more questions that need to be answered, but that’s part of the excitement of Worlds - exploring the nuance of the meta at the highest level. It was one of my favorite things about playing in a World Championship, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it just as much as a spectator. Now that you’re caught up on the meta, be sure to check back throughout the week to get to know the players who will be representing the Americas at Worlds!

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