Table of Contents
Results and Standings
The Emperor's March
Awards and Accolades
Clairvoyance into the Future
The finale of both League of Legends Season 2 and Intel Extreme Masters for 2012. IEM Cologne marks the end of the year as the last international tournament held on the S2 patch. Gathering in Germany, we see a variety of teams, the rising upstarts of Europe: MYM and Millennium, the highly decorated Fnatic and CLG.eu. Finally, two Korean teams aiming to demonstrate to the international scene that they are every bit as good as the Azubus and NaJins back at home. In the final weeks winding down in 2012, which team will get the last word in?
Results and Standings
1st -SKT T1
2nd - Fnatic
Joint 3rd/4th - CJ Entus
Joint 3rd/4th - MeetYourMakers (MYM)
The Emperor's March
For those of you who call TeamLiquid.net home, the name SK Telecom is one we are all but too familiar with. As an international brand, SKT represents one of the biggest telecommunication companies in Asia, analogous to AT&T in America and Vodafone in Europe. But the the gaming community, RTS especially, SKT T1 represents tradition and prestige. Along with KT Rolster, SKT and KT are the oldest professional StarCraft teams in South Korea. Their name carries weight and respect, along with a history of resounding success. But SK Telecom is also famous for one for thing, the Emperor of StarCraft himself: SlayerS_`BoxeR`, Lim Yo Hwan.
So when it was announced at the eve of IEM Cologne that SK Telecom decided to sponsor Reapered's team, Eat Sleep Game, this was a momentous occasion for LoL in Korea. Team 1 have finally arrived to Summoner's Rift and their first stop was Cologne!
Despite a weak showing on Day 1, the newly anointed Team 1 looked shaky yet capable. Outside of Diana, MighTiLy was consistently bullied by other AP mids. UandMe had average laning phase but capitalized greatly off of his Top laner and Jungler's plays during team fights. Through the veteran leadership of their captain, Reapered, and Jungler, H0R0, T1 advanced to the Semis. On Day 3, T1 looked as if they underwent a transformation. They swept through MYM without any problems and brought their A game to the Finals against Fnatic.
Congratulations Reapered and the newly knighted T1! We await to see if you can continue your shining performance in Korea.
Awards and Accolades
Team to Ward Watch: SKT T1
Watching Reapered's team transform from ESG to T1 was quite a sight to behold. While the Korean qualifiers were not as exhaustive as qualifiers for the other regions (T1 only had to win one set to qualify for Cologne, win a second set to enter as the first KR seed), their games against Team OP and CJ Entus were very close. Both sets, ESG edged out a victory 2-1. When Reapered and co. arrived in Germany for Day 1 of the event, they looked average at best. Not quite the level of current Korean S tier teams like KT B or Azubu Frost, but they were good enough to carry on against the best Europe had to offer. Then came Day 3 of IEM Cologne. T1 came out of the gate with a strong showing against MYM, going a solid 2-0. In the finals, Repeared did what was expected of him and came out victorious against the favorites, Fnatic. He even went a flawless 12-0-14 as Olaf in the deciding game of the Finals.
With their first international win under their belt, our impression of SKT T1 is still that of a diamond in the rough. There can be a number of analogies drawn comparing the new Team 1 with another seasoned team, NaJin Sword. Both Reapered and Sword captain, MakNooN, are the hearts of their respective teams. From a playstyle perspective, T1/Sword aim to get their Top lanes fed and farmed, giving them the advantage and potential to carry late game. And it is no surprise that Reapered is the shot-caller for T1, with all of the other 4 members ready to jump at Reapered's command. However, despite all the comparisons, T1 still has a ways to go before they catch up to Sword and the other top echelon of Korea. From what we have seen thus far, Repeared and H0R0 have done a excellent job keeping T1 on the same page. It will be up to MighTiLy to diversify his champion pool (also not rely on a pre-nerf Diana) and UandMe to continue to clean up after Reapered and H0R0's initations into team fights and build up a stronger laning phase.
Honorable Mention: CJ Entus
Judging from Round Robin performances alone, one could have made the prediction of CJ Entus making a deeper run than SKT T1. Both Korean teams advanced from their respective groups with a 2-1, attaining the second seed for the playoff brackets. But CJ's maneuvers and plays were marred by far fewer mistakes than T1. Even up to their semifinal set against Fnatic, they looked in dominating position after Game 1. Poised to make a clean sweep in Game 2, CJ began to systemically break down through incredibly reckless play. While it is safe to say that even a B tier Korean team like CJ Entus has the mechanics and skills to compete with the best of EU, CJ is still lacking in maturity and finesse. The mark of a great LoL team is not simply execution on a team level but the ability to work as a team to close out games and sets. If nothing else, Cologne is a learning experience for CJ. Over the next few months, the community will see if they have cleaned up their plays the next time they enter the international arena.
"See champion, Kill champion" Award: Reapered (Finals: T1 v Fnatic, Game 3)
The last game of IEM Cologne was simply a collage of Reapered running in and wrecking people. As if going 3-0-3 early isn't enough, Repeared pincers Fnatic's bot lane as T1 five-man assassinates Cait and Leona. At this point, Olaf is such a monster that he dictates when T1 fights and when they do, not one Fnatic can gets away. Finishing the game with zero deaths, bros everywhere look at Repaered in awe and in inspiration.
Honorable Mention: inSec (Semifinals: CJ v Fnatic, Game 2)
In a 10 second window, inSec shows why he's one of the best Lee Sins in Korea. As if dodging the Mystic Shot and Essence Flux was even necessary, inSec's exemplary mechanics allows him to minimize the damage he takes while maximize his kill potential.
"Phreak and Teemo" Crowd Pleaser Award: nRated (Semifinals: Fnatic v CJ, Game 2)
After his performance at IPL5, Dreamhack Winter, and now IEM Cologne, there is not enough accolades and recognition for Fnatic's Support, nRated. But it's not simply his execution in game that should garner attention but more importantly what he does for Fnatic pre-game. Since IPL5, there have been a number of respect bans delivered against nRated by opposing teams. This is in part to sOAZ's highly unique picks in the Top lane and xPeke's vast pool of AP champions. But the fact that nRated is able to soak up opposing bans in the form of Blitz and Zyra (two of the most common bans levied against Fnatic), this gives his team an immense flexibility when it comes team composition.
But beware to teams that do leave Blitzcrack available to Fnatic...
From a Level 1 See Champion, Kill champion moment, to capitalizing on inSec's overaggression, nRated kept Fnatic within punching distance of CJ, preventing a snowball from occurring. For every aggressive play by CJ to net a kill, nRated was not far away to land a defensive hook to even the score. The turning point for Fnatic occurred at a Dragon fight where nRated hooked inSec away from CJ, causing CJ's frontline to become scattered. xPeke with an impeccible Zyra Stranglethorn kept CJ dispersed long enough for sOAZ to clean up with three reset jumps. While xPeke had an unusual off game overall, nRated took it upon himself to act as Fnatic's playmaker and kill securing his way to victory.
Honorable Mention: inSec,dade,sOAZ (Semifinals: Fnatic v CJ, Game 3)
The deciding semifinal game between Fnatic v CJ was interesting for a number of reasons, least of all from a bracket perspective, where the winning team of this game would advance to the Finals. In the second time ever at IEM Cologne, inSec picked a Jungle Zed. After CJ's exhibition of CLG.eu during the Group stages, this was another opportunity for inSec to show the world how Zed is a viable pick in competitive play. But to top off the first time Zed makes an appearance at a tournament, we somehow managed LoL's first ever Rengar v Kha'Zix storyline.
The game started out very well for CJ. inSec made big plays in Top lane to get Singed ahead and even counter-ganked Cho'gath at bot lane. However, nothing could avail CJ after xPeke started to snowball. Diana cleaned up two fights after inSec made his move and ended up as a 6-0-0 Diana by 16:00 into the game. A fed Diana turned out to be a direct counter to CJ's double assassin comp of Zed and Kha'Zix. With the immense pressure xPeke applied on Mid and Bot lanes, this gave time for sOAZ to farm back into relevance after an 0-3 start on Rengar. In the end, CJ failed to make use of their assassin comp while a fed Diana bumrushed CJ's carries and a tanky Rengar and Cho'gath protected Ezreal as Ez kited.
“I got the Reset (yes!)” Big Plays Award: CJ Entus (Semifinals: v Fnatic, Game 1)
The biggest play of IEM Cologne was very difficult to notice real time. It was literally a 5 man play that occurred in all three lanes! As Deman, Araneae, and Zenon go into slow motion detail from the analysis desk, inSec quietly waited for Fnatic's bot lane to overextend. When nRated finally stepped out, inSec made his move, initiating a 3v2 against Fnatic down at bot. What is so brilliant about this play is how CJ knows they have the numbers advantage in Bot lane and the fact that Bot Outer turret is incredibly low. Fnatic, with double global presence, tries their damnedest to even the odds.
First, xPeke, who has proven to be an utter terror against Asian TFs (Toyz and MighTiLy felt the Noxian wrath most recently) with TP Katarina, tries to port down Bot as soon as inSec makes his moves. But dade quickly Gold Card stuns to disable the Teleport. xPeke tries to kill dade for his insolence but dade Flashes away as soon as xPeke Death Lotuses. This was the first time we've seen a TF actually counter TP Kat and dade quite possibly prevented his team from suffering a multi-kill counter gank.
Up top, sOAZ on Shen also tries to make presence felt by Standing United with Mundo. But LongPanda anticipates this move and Flash Counterstrikes to also disable Fnatic's second global attempt! With a combined effort in Top and Mid lanes, CJ safely penetrates through Fnatic bot lane, secures their first tower of the game as well as a well deserved triple kill. This advantage snowballs CJ into a position where Caitlyn has a 15 minutes Infinity Edge against an Ezreal with just a BF and Phage. CJ continues to exert map dominance through item superiority and CJ remains in the driver seat for the remainder of Game 1.
Honorable Mention: T1 (Finals v Fnatic, Game 1)
With a single Flash, T1's Jungler H0R0 showed an interesting mix of skill, risk-taking, and of course, a little luck. Both teams played cat and mouse for a while with opposing Blitzcrank and Amumu biding their time. Amumu makes first aggression with a brilliant max range Curse of the Sad Mummy. It catches four Fnatic players by surprise, including all three of Fnatic's carries. This sets up beautifully for StarLast's Stranglethorns followed up by UandMe's Bullet Time and T1 sweeps though taking down Ezreal, Xin, and Blitz at zero death and minimal health loss.
Clairvoyance into the Future
IEM makes its mark as the final tournament event of 2012 but also rings in the new year with two circuit event. First up is IEM Katowice held in Poland. A handful of teams have successfully qualified already including M5, Fnatic, MYM, and SK Gaming. Making their first appearance on the international scene, Royal Club aims to show what other Chinese teams have to offer.
At the end of January, we finish up the month of IEM Sao Paulo in Brazil. These two back to back IEM events will lay a strong foundation of what players and fans alike can expect from the new Season 3 patch. See you all in 2013!