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Will Immortals Remain Indomitable?

After facing initial doubts about the strength of their roster, The Immortals spent their rookie split mocking their doubters with a near-perfect performance as a top-tier team. It’s odd, then, that they’re facing some new concerns this Summer Split — especially since they’ve had another very strong performance. The team achieved a 16-2 record during the regular Split, a very near repetition of their 17-1 performance during their rookie Split.

So, why the pessimism? The Immortals are heading into two intense matchups. First, they’ll be going up against Cloud9 in the semis. Should they succeed, they’ll be heading to the finals, with their likely opponent being TSM. During the Spring playoffs, TSM surged out of nowhere, defeating the Immortals in a stunning 3-0. The Immortals will be keeping their heads down, hoping to plow through Cloud9 and get to the team who has stood in their path for so long. The Immortals haven’t been able to get the better of TSM since that fateful matchup, but another confrontation between the titans could be coming. As the semis approach, the Immortals hope to live up to their name. They’ll be hoping to start by taking Cloud9 down, and if they succeed, they’ll be one step closer to becoming North American champions.

Shifting from spring

The Immortals are a formidable team because each member is a strong player, gifted with terrific mechanics and game sense. There are few moments where the team actively crumples or falters — even when they make bad decisions, they commit as a team, and they keep some fight in them. Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon was the obvious weak link of the team during Spring. Huni is a strong player, capable of carrying a game or going hard against any other top laner in the region. However, he’s susceptible to tilting when he gets off to a difficult start — and when the other teams recognized this, they began to camp him, to needle him and to basically harass him into that negative mindset.

The original band-aid solution was to employ Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin as one-man anti-tilt squad. If a jungler roamed up to gank Huni, Reignover would take preventative action by either being there to ward the enemy jungler off or picking up massive advantages in the bot lane or jungle while the other guy was preoccupied.

During the summer, the Immortals have shifted their strategy. While Huni and Reignover are both still key members of the team, it’s Eugene "Pobelter" Park who's been stepping up and becoming a major threat on champions like Viktor and Taliyah. Having strong members allows the Immortals to switch the pressure off one player and onto another; Huni, Jason "WildTurtle" Tran, Pobelter and even Reignover can convincingly carry a game, and so the Immortals have — in theory — the ability to adapt and shift in games to suit the meta and stump opponents.

Meta game struggles

One of the biggest critiques that come up again and again when talking about the Immortals is the team’s pick and ban phase. When the Immortals win, people praise picks like Huni’s Riven top. However, when they lose, these picks become a source of concern. The most famous example is Lucian top in the spring playoffs against TSM, but the problems have continued into summer as well. Weaker players might have been pushed out on these picks, but their mechanical prowess and teamplay allow them to look good, even on a less-than-perfect draft. It’s an odd problem to have, but one that must be fixed before the Immortals emerge for playoffs.

Let’s take a look at their Week 9 game against TSM as an example: The Immortals engaged in a standard draft in game one, but still lost. Perhaps this is what drove them to take a risk in the next match. In game two, the Immortals banned out Hauntzer’s Shen to tamp down TSM’s pressure and avoid the map control that Shen’s ult and TP gives him. A good move — but then they picked Tahm Kench, a pick that mostly works against extremely tanky opponents. Furthermore, Kench doesn’t fit Huni’s aggressive style at all, and the Gnar pick was able to whittle him down. Huni was essentially neutered, and worse yet, Gnar was able to fulfil the role of a tank by raging out. Svenskeren, on Hecarim, was able to find Tahm and pick him off repeatedly, empowering TSM and further backing the Immortals into a corner. Game one was close, but the Immortals weren’t able to come back from game two.

When the Immortals are ahead, they’re a dominant team who know how to close out games and push advantages. When they’re behind, they falter. It’s easy to diagnose it as "tilt," but the problem seems to be more complex: When the Immortals are behind, they don’t know how to play at that disadvantage. Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile; starve them, and they fall out of the game entirely.

What lies ahead

Consider for a moment that we have headed into a dramatically different meta for the upcoming playoffs — both top and bot lane has experienced quite a change. The Immortals have been slow to adapt to meta changes in the past, but the upcoming lane swap switcharoo may seriously help them in the playoffs. With Huni being allowed to go toe-to-toe with a top laner and not fend off a duo lane, that might give him the chance to make his trademark HAM plays on Impact.

The question is whether they’ll be able to adapt and move on their feet, or whether they’ll stumble and fall short. They’re a dominant team with a lot of talent, and it’s odd that there is so little confidence in a team with a record of 16-2. On the other hand, they have justified those doubts in the past.

If you want to call yourself an Immortal you have to try to be the best. Falling in second place is strong, but it’s not what they want — the team is clearly hungry and ready to try to take first place. The rest of the region has improved around them, but the amount of raw talent and ambition that the Immortals hoard may be enough for them to finally take down the revitalized TSM and take the crown that they’ve been angling for since day one. Expect this team to start strong and make it to Worlds — as long as they can keep their heads in the game.

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