IPL5 was the largest tournament since the Season 2 World Championships and the last truly international tournament of 2012. It had high expectations, and it did not disappoint with a free multistream HD broadcast, a string of VAs filling in the downtime between games and some amazing cosplay the event was a treat from start to finish. But just as even the best icing does not make a cake, the games are what ultimately make a tournament. And once again, IPL5 did not disappoint.
With Season 3 now coming around the corner, teams will be looking back at Season 2 looking for the lessons they can draw and use for the future. Season 2 has showcased some of the largest advancements in League of Legends understanding and theory so far, and we here at TeamLiquid are looking forward to what Season 3 will bring us. At the same time, any tournament organiser in Season 3 will also have a large selection of tournaments to look back upon and learn from as well. From the internet failures of the Season 2 World Championships, or the success of independent tournaments such as Kings of Europe and Tales of the lane, there is much for any established or up-and-coming tournament organiser to consider.
You’ll probably notice that there have been some pretty big changes to the layout of our write-ups. One issue has been the pages-long scroll-fest that can make it difficult to navigate our news posts. The TeamLiquid LoL Staff are constantly trying to improve our work and we hope this could be the next step in making the coverage we work hard to bring you easier to read. We'd love to hear your opinions about whether you, our dear readers, feel about this new layout.
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So what do we have for you this time? As usual, we have the Results and Standings from IPL5 for anyone who missed the action or needs a refresher. Next up is the Report Card, a new section where we grade the teams at IPL5 and discuss where they stumbled and fell, and what they can do to improve. Once again, MoonBear chimes in with some analysis of the TPA v Fnatic series and CLG.eu v World Elite in Faking tame, Pressure game. Once again, the TeamLiquid Editor Awards return in Awards and Accolades before our final Closing Words for our last major piece of coverage for 2012.
So what are you waiting for? Click on the contents or the navigation bar below to start enjoying our latest edition of TeamLiquid's LoL Coverage, and let us know in the comments about what you think of our new layout!
Signing off on behalf of the friendly LoL Crew,
Table of Contents
Results and Standings
Faking tame, Pressure game
Awards and Accolades
Results and Standings
IGN ProLeague Season 5
Who did their homework this time?
By Chiharu Harukaze and JBright
+ Show Spoiler [DISCLAIMER] +
The Report Card is a score we give each team based against what we feel is an appropriate level of performance and potential for each team in question (i.e. each score represents how well each team has performed compared to what their expected performance should be). It is based upon many questions such as: Did each player perform to their full capability? Is the team communicating and functioning together? Where can each team improve upon?
This means these scores are not a Power Rank. Team 1 getting a higher score than Team 2 does not necessarily mean that Team 1 is a better team than Team 2. Instead, it means that Team 1 has performed closer to their true potential than Team 2 did. Potential also does not correspond to their final tournament placing or their Bo3 results against different teams. Even scores of 2:0 in a Bo3 can hide how bitterly contested the games might have actually been.
This means these scores are not a Power Rank. Team 1 getting a higher score than Team 2 does not necessarily mean that Team 1 is a better team than Team 2. Instead, it means that Team 1 has performed closer to their true potential than Team 2 did. Potential also does not correspond to their final tournament placing or their Bo3 results against different teams. Even scores of 2:0 in a Bo3 can hide how bitterly contested the games might have actually been.
13th-16th Place: Team FeaR, Team Dynamic, IceLanD, Blackbean
If there is one word to describe the four teams who finished last at IPL5, it would be "lacking." The 13-16th place finishers were all missing those little things that could push them to the next prize bracket, whether it be the ability to capitalize on early advantages, team coordination or just luck of the draw. These teams are still strong relative to their region as shown by some talented players in their lineup as well as their qualification through the online qualifiers. Unfortunately, that is simply not enough when it comes to the world stage. Now is the time for these teams to reflect on their performance and see if they can take their game to another level when the Season 3 Championship Series comes around.
9th-12th Place: Meat, Team SoloMid, Singapore Sentinels, Curse EU
Three of the four teams in the second lowest tier at IPL5 represent some of the strongest teams in their respective regions but that hardly matters when those regions happen to be Southeast Asia and North America. The one anomaly in this group was Curse Gaming EU since they were hyped up as a strong contender after their 1st place finish at Tales of the Lane just a few weeks prior to the start of IPL5.
You could split these four teams into two groups - teams who got outplayed and teams who didn't practice enough. Meat Playgroud and Singapore Sentinels fall into the former category since they were eliminated by Moscow 5 and Taipei Assassins, two of the top 4 teams at the Season 2 World Championships. Then we have Team SoloMid and Curse Gaming EU, two teams everyone knew had very little good practice coming up to the event. TSM was settling down in their new house after moving to California from New York in October. On the other hand Curse.eu was accused of relaxing too much after their first tournament win by SuperAZE, their support player, and that lead to his departure from the team.
Looking forward to Season 3, each of these four teams will face many challenges in order to reach the top of the League of Legends competitive scene. Curse.eu and Meat Playground both need to find players to round out their lineup and stabilize as a team because Angush and Creaton (Curse.eu) has left to play for Millenium while Pobelter and xxx (someone else who is underage, don't remember who) (Meat Playground) are too young to legally play in the Season 3 Championship Series. TSM is planning to move once again and they will need to adjust in a new setting as well as hunker down to sort out their biggest issue - the reliance of flavour of the month champions and strategies. Finally, SGS will have to overcome their demons in the form of TPA in the Garena Premiere League. They will forever be remembered only as the lovable team with some really good Youtube videos unless they can prove themselves to be able to compete at the same level as TPA.
7th-8th Place: Curse Gaming NA
One can't help but think that Curse Gaming's North American and European teams are like polar opposites of each other. The EU team was streaky and won an offline tournament while their NA counterparts were consistently above average (2nd-8th place finishes) but could never break out at LANs. Their lack of tournament wins was the sole reason North America had a Trioka and not a Quartet. However that is not to say Curse.na cannot contend for a spot as one of the top NA teams since they are arguably one of the most improved teams compared to the beginning of the season. Just take a look at Nyjacky. A year ago he was known as a passive Veigar only player and could be easily banned out but now he has diversified his champion pool and is able to roam effectively and exert pressure on the rest of the map. Then we have Curse.na's bot lane pair, Cop and Elementz. It would be a long stretch to call them top tier in 2011 since it is hard to remember a game where they were ahead after laning phase. Over the course of Season 2, Cop has matured to be a top Ezreal player (always Phage proc, never not proc). On the other hand, while Elementz is still far from a top support, his overall skill has increased drastically and he makes less game throwing mistakes than before. In top lane I think everyone would agree that Voyboy's performance since joining was an upgrade to Westrice's play. From the jungle standpoint, Saintvicious was more or less a sidegrade compared to Crumbzz since their playstyles were so different. One of the biggest improvement for Curse.na was their expanded champion pool that included some unorthodox picks. Voyboy 's Elise is often banned while Elementz sometimes pulls out Fiddlesticks and Jarvan IV; if Saint played more than just carry junglers, maybe Curse.na can take their their game to the next level.
Coming up to IPL5, Curse.na had to deal with several new additions to their team - Voyboy and Rhux. Voyboy joined at the beginning of November while Rhux was recruited as a substitute for IPL5. Before joining Curse.na, Voyboy was in a slump playing for CLG.na and blamed as the reason the team did not perform well at the Season 2 World Championships. However, this could be attributed to CLG.na's playstyle, which stifled Voyboy's aggressiveness and creative picks. In contrast to Voyboy's position as a hand-me-down, Rhux was a fresh discovery from Curse Gaming's Proving Grounds 1v1 Tournament who got to tryout with the team. Both Voyboy and Rhux played well at IPL5 but it was apparent that the team did not have the coordination of a stable team. No matter how well the players get along, it takes more than just 2-3 weeks to play perfectly together at the highest level.
Over the course of Season 2, the Curse mansion has been a pretty successful experiment in terms of player improvement. It puts the players within close proximity to each other and mistakes in the game can now be accounted for outside of the game in the form of team "discussion." Curse will move their gaming house from Los Angeles to Nevada due to prohibitive cost of living. We will have to wait and see if they can continue their slow and steady rise to become the top team in the North American scene.
7th-8th Place: Azubu Blaze
A lot of pressure was placed on Azubu Blaze as they came in IPL5 since they were the sole representative from Korea, the strongest competitive scene in League of legends, and many considered them to be a favourite to take the tournament. However, there was still one unknown factor in the team - Flame's ability to perform in an international setting. He joined the team in late October after Reapered's departure but was not part of the team's victory at the MLG Fall Championships. Azubu Frost's Shy took over Reapered role at MLG and his skill was on full display as he earned TL's Singed Raid Boss Award for the event.
During the group stages, Blaze surprising finished to third place after dropping games to Team WE and FnaticRC. Even though Flame was outmatched by Caomei and Soaz in those games, he was not the only one to blame for the team's shaky performance. There were times where it seemed like they were always one or two step behind the enemy in terms of ganking and counter-ganking, which were the responsibilities of the Jungle and the Mid players. The bot lane still played well but it was also clear that they were not quite at the top of their game - Cpt Jack was often picked off while he was farming alone in a side lane while Lustboy's impact was minimized since the team was never strong enough to try and group to make plays. It has been stated by the casters that Blaze had some sort of hotel problem and they had to stay over at TSM ReginaId's room, which obviously affected their rest and ability to adapt to overcome jetlag. Make no mistake, this was a disappointing finish for the team and Azubu Blaze fans even with all the issues they had outside of the game.
However, not all is lost for Blaze. They played a few more matches in OGN The Champions Winter after IPL5 and are now playing in the elimination bracket. They will have the chance to face up and coming teams (KT Rolster) as well as well established teams (Azubu Frost) in order to prove that they are once again top dog in the food chain.
5th-6th Place: CLG Prime
CLG.na is a rather peculiar team. In many ways, they are a walking contradiction. A team that can claim to be the best in their region by a mile, yet like North America they have trouble adapting to the evolving world. A team full of potential and skill, but unable to execute strategies correctly. A team capable of completely taking control of a game, only to throw it all away. A team that is often written off by various Redditors as past their expiry date, yet continue to post results surpassing the expectations of critics. A team that knows what their fundamental problems are, yet unable to refine themselves. In many ways, CLG.na perhaps highlights most strongly the largest problem North America will face in Season 3: making sure they don't fall behind.
Long gone are the days of teams like CLG refusing to scrim anyone and placing faith in their raw mechanics. Indeed, North America has done much to gain lost ground. However there is still a key area where North America is still lacking - innovation and collaboration. Nearly every other region has benefited from incredibly gifted players who drive innovation with others feeding off their insight and continue to iterate and perfect.
Consider Europe for example. There is a strong emphasis on the AP Mid role, with each team being driven or built around their mid laner. SK Gaming has Ocelote, CLG.eu has their star player Froggen, Moscow Five's plays are centred around Alex Ich, and Acer is most well known as ForellenLord and four other dudes. Korea's greatest advancements have been in the top lane - a Lilac of Team OP who was the original Korean top laners others aspired and learnt from, Shy of Azubu`Frost who was also integral to Azubu`Blaze winning MLG Dallas, Reapered of SKT T1 who was former bedrock of Azubu`Blaze at MLG Summer Arena and the defining player of his new team, or Maknoon of NaJin`Sword whose team is completely built around him. The same can be said for China. MikakoTabe (former HKEGG, iG and now Royal Club) was one of the largest influences on the Chinese understanding of bot lane gameplay. At the same time, Wh1t3zz (formerly iG and now retired) can be traced as the reason Twisted Fate is a top pick in China and the champion every single AP Mid knows how to play, despite not being as popular in other regions.
Despite the talks of North America's death knell, don't count them out. CLG.na very nearly beat Fnatic 2:0, and we saw Dignitas push Azubu`Blaze to the limit at MLG Dallas. But while they can compete and go toe-to-toe, they need to be able to keep improving and to close out games. The rumoured news that Dignitas and CLG.na will be sharing a gaming house is welcome news. It is no secret that Korean teams band together when facing foreign teams. It is likely North America will need to follow a similar path.
5th-6th Place: CLG EU
If you asked the average Joe on the street to sum up CLG.eu in one word, the two most popular answers would likely be some variation of "Froggenivia". Froggen is one of the cornerstones of CLG, from soaking permabans on his Anivia to being renown as a farming monster. However, Froggen is also perhaps CLG.eu's greatest flaw.
At each stage in the game, players are assigned priority on farm from the first position who receives the most, to the fifth position who receives the least. In CLG.eu, Froggen is the first position carry at all stages of the game. He is constantly farming minion waves. Wickd will often take second position, often due to split pushing. That often leaves Yellowpete forced to stick with the team defending towers, and trying to scrum for cs with the rest of his team while someone else (often Froggen) farms the pushed waves. The lack of concentrated gold on the AD Carry means that Yellowpete does not provide the immense dps a farmed AD Carry would normally provide at the expected timings. This is exacerbated by the fact Yellowpete has sub-par last hitting skills. Inexplicably during several of CLG.eu's games, Yellowpete would be down on cs compared to the opposing AD Carry, even in free farm lanes where he wasn't even being harassed. At the same time, despite being third position Yellowpete does not adapt. Even while being gold starved he will try to stick to cookie-cutter AD Carry builds instead of playing a third position role. For instance, if Froggen is hogging all the farm and going to play first position carry on an AP Champion, why not play Malady Kog'maw? The sheer dps/gold efficiency would allow CLG.eu to hit a strong mid-game timing of powerful magic damage before defensive itemisation could kick in while still offering build paths out into a regular AD Carry role. Alternatively, Yellowpete could be more forceful about securing his farm from Froggen.
But instead of creative synergy or more appropriate farm distribution we are left with delayed AD itemisation timings. Indeed the reason CLG.eu games are so long is not necessarily because of CLG.eu's famed defensive abilities. It is also because CLG.eu play many games where they have already won, but need to sit around for another 20 minutes for Yellowpete to finally farm the items he needs but could not acquire due to being starved of farm or just failing at last hitting. ^
4th Place: Moscow Five
Moscow Five is a team that paces its tempo around its midlaner Alex Ich. His aggressive control combined with Diamondprox and Darien is a combination that provides heavy map pressure which secured them IEM Kiev and is a formula they have often repeated to much success. However, it comes at a cost. Specifically, their bot lane. While they have their stand-out moments, for the most part the Moscow Five duo-bot is underwhelming and is one of Moscow Five's largest exploitable weaknesses. However IPL5 also showed the problems Moscow Five have in their team synergy and communication, with players uncharacteristically being caught out of place and resulting in sloppy play. The normally sharp Darien often went exploring Dora style and allowed opposing teams to seize upon that and trounce the Russians. Like CLG.eu, Moscow Five will need to do some introspection and consider their play and their communication. Before, they could get away with sloppy plays and gloss over the weaknesses they had bot lane but with the bar constantly being raised in League of Legends, they can do so no longer.
As an interesting aside, IPL5 has shown that in more ways than one CLG.eu and Moscow Five are like rival twins. Both teams were founded at the same time. Both teams playstyles revolve around their mid laners, who are both farming monsters. Both teams were eliminated by the same team at IPL5 and both were eliminated at the same time in the Season 2 World Finals. And now both teams must reflect and decide the best way to incorporate their bot lane more. It will be interesting whether both teams decide upon the same answer.
3rd Place: Taipei Assassins
Having won the Season 2 World Championships, the Taipei Assassins came to IPL5 with high expectations. A top three finish in such a competitive field is nothing to scoff at, especially considering the calibre of teams they had to beat along the way. But at the same time, they will likely leave Las Vegas disappointed having lost twice in two series to Fnatic 2:0 and come so close to the Grand Finals. Why could they not break that one barrier?
TPA live in a new world, where they are now a known entity. When they enter a tournament, people are going to be gunning for them, researching them and trying to mind game them. Fnatic did their research and had a plan to completely dismantle TPA and their style of play. If there's something for TPA to work on, it will be their proverbial Plan B.
2nd Place: Fnatic
The story of Fnatic is a tale of ups and downs. Their Season 1 victory was a dogged tale of persistence and determination against odds stacked against them. With xPeke stuck in Europe due to a flight delay, Fnatic were almost knocked out in the first day of the Championship Finals after being forced to sub at the last minute. And after their Season 1 victory, their name faded away. With their persistent reliance on double AP due to Shushei's inflexibility as a top-laner and nerfs to items such as Rabadon's Deathcap, they struggled to find their form. Despite their dark horse performance at IEM New York and avoiding the team drama that surrounded their long-time rivals SK Gaming, they failed to qualify for the Season 2 Championship Finals. The European scene has long been much more volatile than in North American. So it can be unwise to read too much into short-term results and try to extrapolate. But there are still many interesting things that can be said about the new Fnatic.
Gone are the predictable team compositions from before that everyone could see coming a mile away and prepare for. Instead in its place is a new Fnatic, more leaner and focused than before. sOAZ is one of the most flexible top laners, however he excels at creating pressure against the opposing team. Combined with a xPeke currently running hot, they provide a dual threat during the mid-game. This mid-game threat combined with map control is the core of Fnatic's play. They goal is to exert pressure and advance their development by taking objectives while not allowing their opponent to respond profitably. Once control is established, Fnatic is then able to ensure the secure development of Rekkles as the first-position carry. If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. This strategy is a variation of the style Moscow Five and CLG.eu play. However, where a team like CLG.eu continue to emphasise farm on their mid and top laner throughout the game, Fnatic is comfortable allowing Rekkles taking centre stage with the other players stepping back and playing around him. The result is a smooth and co-ordinated shift from the mid and top laners driving the tempo of the game to the natural transition of the AD Carry as the biggest threat on the map.
However Fnatic have a moment of weakness that can be exploited - the period of transition where they shift emphasis from xPeke and sOAZ to Rekkles. Fnatic are incredibly reliant on their map control, more so than many other teams. Indeed, we saw at IPL that Oracles forms a fundamental core of their strategy in deny vision and controlling flow. Ever since Season 1, Cyanide has been comfortable playing fourth position or lower, and will happily buy naked Oracles without the backing of any defensive items such as Boots 2 if the situation demands it. However this also comes at a risk - the loss of Oracles on an already underfarmed player. And without their map control, Fnatic play much more hesitantly, almost overly cautious at times. This interferes the transition period for Rekkles and creates a timing window teams can abuse. This is the main area Fnatic will need to focus in the months ahead, despite the loss of their up-and-coming player in Rekkles. While Rekkles is a strong player, so long as Fnatic can have a defensive AD player who understands how to maximise farm during the transition period and take control of the game as the first position, then the core of Fnatic remains unchanged.
1st Place: World Elite
Improving is integral to being the best. If someone is better than you, you need to improve in order to be able to beat them. If you already are better than everyone else, you need to get better in order to stay the best. Yet despite its importance, very few players are actually able to show dramatic signs of improvements. When you look at many long-time players, you can constantly see them make the same mistakes as people around them change. It is perhaps for this reason that teams changes rosters so often. Perhaps there is not enough faith that players are capable of improving. But at the same time, perhaps the reason why European and North American players are incapable of improving is not their own fault. There is a difference that separates the pretenders from the elite: The coaching and preparation difference.
How important and real is this difference? Let us take World Elite top laner Caomei as our example. For the longest time, Caomei was the proverbial black swan of the Chinese League of Legends. Always making mistakes, he would constantly apologise to his and World Elite's fans on his WeiBo fanpage (a Chinese blog site). It so bad, even his own coach would make jokes about him overextending and feeding first blood. However, despite everything, he has stayed at World Elite. Anyone familiar with the old Caomei watching World Elite at IPL5 would have thought that their top laner had been replaced with a robot or clone baring the same name. Gone were the unforced errors and erratic deaths in lane. Instead was a brutal killing machine. Much has been said about WeiXiao and his superb skills as an AD Carry. However, at IPL his performance was inconsistent. But when WeiXiao hesitated ans stumbled, it was Caomei who was there right behind him and stepped up to carry hard. Even on champions he had built a reputation as being bad at, such as Irelia.
The biggest reason for World Elite's success lies with their coach JoKer. Unlike many other managers and coaches for various teams, JoKer has an incredibly active role in the play of his team. Indeed, he has an incredibly strong understanding of League of Legends and how game flow works, to an extent that even professional players may not understand. But the influence of a coach is more than just knowledge. It is the maturity that shapes the players. It is the security that refocuses the team after a bad game. It is the outside perspective that teaches and guides. And we saw those very influence in action at IPL. World Elite constantly fought to the bitter end, and after each game they seemed to come back stronger and stronger. No where was this more evident than in the Finals, where after being crushed by Fnatic in Game 1 and a bitter second game, World Elite slowly took control of the series. By the last game, World Elite just flattened Fnatic like a stray can, as if they knew Fnatic better than Fnatic knew themselves. Indeed, in their post-tournament interview, JoKer talked about how between games he had made sure that his team went into each game level-headed and armed with his fresh analysis having just spectated their previous round. World Elite's victory wasn't just a group of five players triumphing over another five players. It was the triumph of a team working together, inside game and out.
Entire eSport empires are founded specifically because of the coaches and managers who had the power to see what others could not. The illustrious name of SKT T1 in Korean eSports would never have become a household name were it not for their coaches. * The SKT Terran dynasty born a decade ago that lasted until Brood War's dying breaths was founded on the visions and dreams of Boxer and iloveoov, and even in the closing days they were constantly innovating and changing Terran matchups. SKT Proleague dominance is often credited to the foresight and unique training regime they ran, overseen by some of the brightest minds such as Kingdom, DoctorK, Rainbow and Coach Park.
World Elite's victory at IPL5 is symbolic, and not just because it marks their first international trophy after a dominance of the Chinese scene. World Elite's victory marks the death of an old era. It is no longer sufficient to merely be a team of five strong players and expect to do well. If teams want to be a contender, they will need to develop coaching and managing staff. While many of the smaller teams may lack the resources to, there is no excuse for the larger teams. And until teams start taking League of Legends seriously and do so, they will falter against all the teams that have that extra edge that tips the scale just far enough in their favour to win games and even tournaments.
^ It is perhaps interesting to note that CLG.eu is in a scenario that CLG.na was once in a long time ago, where HSGG and Saintvicious would constantly take farm away from their AD Carry and force long drawn out games as a result. (Back to article)
* SKT T1 was the most 'winningest' team in Brood War, with more gold than any other team in ProLeague. SKT T1 also the birth place for many notable players, such as BoxeR, Midas, iloveoov, Fantasy, RainBOw, BeSt, and GoRush. (Back to article)
Faking tame, Pressure game
An analysis on Fnatic v TPA and CLG.eu v WE
By: MoonBear, Navi and TheYango
When you think of strategy in Starcraft, the first thing you think of is "build orders". Build orders are fundamental to Starcraft and shape the nature of every single match-up. Indeed, scouting to obtain information and understand your opponent's strategy is so vital that it is one of the key concepts drilled into every new player's mind. From this information, it is then up to each player to use the information and execute their strategy and adapt to any new information they continue to scout.
However in League of Legends the scouting phase and choice of build order occurs before the game even begins - at the Pick/Ban Phase. There is a large amount of information revealed due to picks and bans which dramatically influences where each team lies on the scale of inevitability and relativity. Where in Starcraft it is much easier to change between strategies (for example, abandoning a greedy economic build to hydra bust an unsuspecting Protoss player), it is much harder to do so in League of Legends as champions are locked in once the game has started. The in-game focus instead shifts away to understanding and properly executing team composition and strategies. Two series at IPL5 best exemplify how important it is to understand what your team composition is and how to correctly play it - Fnatic versus Taipei Assassins and CLG.eu versus World Elite.
Fnatic versus Taipei Assassins
The strategies prepared by Fnatic against the Taipei Assassins was a specially designed to counter the Taipei Assassins. TPA is a very farm heavy team, often spread out across the map aiming to secured a continued gold advantage and slowly attrition down the opposition, with Lilballz being key to ensuring the map presence necessary to discourage counter play by the opposing team. However, the problem with junglers trying to create tempo for their team is that planning and proper positional play can quickly shut them down. sOAZ and xPeke's choice of aggressive champions and play style meant that when working in co-ordination with Cyanide they were able to quickly take control of the game's tempo and outgank Lilballz, which was not helped by Lilballz's predictable jungling patterns (this guide on TPA lvl 1 strategies being posted on Reddit may not have helped either).
Indeed TPA can be quite predictable in the pick/ban phase often waiting to secure Toyz a safe midlane with their last pick to ensure a steady matchup, as they did at Worlds. Fnatic's bans were well thought out, taking Orianna and Anivia (two of the safest mid laners) away from Toyz and forcing him to play champions he was uncomfortable on (Twisted Fate) or exposed him to counter-picks (Karthus). Forcing teams to play outside of their comfort zone is incredibly important, as it increases the chances they play their team composition incorrectly and gives greater room to outplay them.
It is important to highlight sOAZ's choice of top laners and map movements. It is common to see many top laners sit to and afk-farm for extended periods of time. However, sOAZ was very active in his play, moving around and helping his team secure kills and objectives. Notice how he only picked Kha'zix against TPA and not against any other team. This was a conscious decision specifically because it was part of a strategy to counter TPA. Kha'zix has very strong roaming and killing capabilities but his kit is not suited for the extended afk-farm style of top lane. Combined with proper protection of Cyanide's Oracles, Fnatic are able to deny map vision and restrict TPA from extending to farm out of fear of dying to a sudden pick off. This opens space for Fnatic to take objectives such as Dragon and towers without interference. With the lanes pushed in due to TPA's reluctance to push back out or roam outwards due to fear of being picked off, it allows Fnatic to secure objectives uncontested. Even when Fnatic group to take turrets, TPA is not in position to defend as they are continuously spread out across the map and unable to match the more grouped Fnatic. In every single game TPA played against Fnatic, the majority of the kills came due to Fnatic taking advantage of TPA's split nature and punishing positional mistakes.
This is best highlighted by Game 2 of the Loser Bracket Finals.
Game starts at 10:50
For most of the laning phase, TPA and Fnatic are fairly evenly matched. In fact, TPA even picks up the first two kills of the game with the combined use of Karthus and Shen ultimates and follow up by taking Dragon quickly afterwards. It is a massive momentum swing in TPA's favour. However, Kha'zix immediately moves to take top tower and then roam to regain an advantage for Fnatic. With Shen's lane pushed in and Diana pinning Karthus to his tower, Fnatic are then free to take bot tower with Olaf being unable to defend for fear of dying. sOAZ continues his roam and at 11 minutes into the game he nets Lilballz and his Oracles. This isn't a lucky pick-off however. After pushing in top lane to force Shen to reveal his presence, sOAZ deliberately went hunting for Olaf in his jungle after he revealed his presence near mid lane. At the same time, Diana pushed the wave into Karthus' tower to keep him there while bot lane immediately fights forcing Shen to use Stand United (R). By the time Olaf realises the trap he has walked into, there is literally no possible way for him to escape.
As the game continues, the story is much the same. TPA continue to spread themselves across the map while Fnatic take advantage of their pick-off potential and group to forcibly take objectives and execute anyone who tries to stop them. Fnatic punish TPA for trying to farm, and by doing so force TPA to relinquish map control and Fnatic take uncontested Dragons and Buffs. When TPA try to group up as five to avoid the constant solo kills, Fnatic then force TPA into a poor position in the ensuing teamfight just over 17 minutes into the game. Because TPA have no way to properly defend their backline, they become separated and killed off one by one. Note how Bebe on Caitlyn spends nearly the entire fight just running away instead of doing damage. By the time Caitlyn has fired her third autoattack of the teamfight, TPA have completely lost the teamfight already. The rest of the game is merely a formality. Fnatic just rinse and repeat - push in all lanes, wait for someone to split from the team and then go all-in on a tower and threaten to kill anyone who comes to defend thanks to numerical superiority and damage.
TPA did not play poorly at IPL5. However, there is a clear reason why they lost twice in two series to Fnatic and failed to take a single game off them; TPA failed to adapt. Instead of changing their game and responding to Fnatic's roam, they continuously tried the same passive and attrition based style of play and were punished for it. In a way, the games between TPA and Fnatic highlight a greater shift in tournament play since the Season 2 World Championships: the clash in mid lane playstyles. The passive mid laners rely heavily on their junglers to exert map pressure. However, with proper preparation the active ganking mid laner will always provide more control and momentum because of their superior levels, farm and damage. The common adage has been that if your lane roams, just push the wave to their tower and punish them for it. While this works in solo queue, this is no longer the case in competitive play because the other team will always be aiming for something far more important than a few creep waves worth of experience and gold (such as objectives and/or multiple kills). With the Season 3 changes, teams wanting to take advantage of the power from more passive mid lane champions will need to consider the laning dynamics and how to appropriately deal with aggressive play. For TPA specifically, they will likely want to think about how their team compositions will work when Toyz is unable to play his two favoured champions but still play a champion he can play not only mechanically proficiently but also at the top level but in terms of what he can use to influence the overarching game flow.
CLG.eu versus World Elite
Game 2 from the Winner Bracket series between CLG.eu and WE was perhaps one of the most exciting games of the tournament, and for good reason. If you haven't watched this game already it is highly recommended you do so. (It is also the second time in competitive League of Legends that teams have broken the 100k gold mark, and almost become the first game where a team was able to come back from a game where they were down all three inhibitors several times). However, like the series between Fnatic and TPA it also highlights how teams can incorrectly play their team compositions.
Game starts at 9:40
Counter Logic Gaming is a team that often relies on Froggen to carry them. However, against World Elite they played a team composition where the hardest carry on their team was Yellowpete on Kog'maw and by the end of the game their team completely revolved around keeping Kog'maw alive long enough for him to kill everything. However, CLG.eu failed to play to their team composition's strength. Instead of focusing all their effort on getting Kog'maw fully farmed as fast as possible, instead Yellowpete played third position (i.e. third priority for farm) with Froggen once again taking all of the farm. For instance, just under 21 minute into the game we see Lee Sin take Red Buff despite Kog'maw interrupting farm top lane to come to Red Buff, followed by Froggen going top to free farm while Kog'maw stays at turret and fights for cs with Rumble as WE pushes in.
In many other games, CLG has still managed to win despite their AD Carry's delayed development. However, their inefficient allocation of farm came back to haunt them in this game. When the AD Carry in a 4-protect-1 team composition hits their full 6 item build they reach their peak power and cannot become strong due to the lack of inventory slots. This means that the key timing the 4-protect-1 team composition must hit is the rapid itemisation of their first position carry. World Elite however were running a lineup consisting of multiple carries who could all take a primary role in a teamfight at any given point in time. While in a conventional game the 4-protect-1 team would be considered to have the stronger late-game, in a super-late-game scenario the multi-carry team composition is able to make more efficient use of their gold because item development on the lower position champions (namely the second and third position carries) accomplish more than their counterparts on the 4-protect-1 team composition. In this instance, at the end of the game when World Elite's champions were all at six item builds, each champion represented a threat that CLG.eu had to deal with and eliminate which made defensive itemisation and team fight prioritisation difficult. At the same time, they needed to protect Kog'maw which restricted their team positioning. In contrast WE had a single task - stop the Kog'maw. WE had the flexibility of not relying on a single threat to win a teamfight and in the super-late-game situation could play accordingly.
Consider the teamfight that occurs at 48:35 (game time) due to CLG chasing Rengar down top lane. Initially the teamfight seems completely lost for CLG.eu with Amumu and Zyra already dead before Froggen has even arrived, while Rumble and Kog'maw are incredibly low. However, Froggen on Lee Sin splits Ezreal away from Kog'maw and splits WE's attention which let Froggen and Yellowpete kill WE's carries and survive on low health. As CLG has not drafted an extremely defensive 4-protect-1 such as the Dignitas Superheal comp, they instead need to rely on the lower positioned carries (Rumble and Lee Sin) to provide a great enough threat to open space for Kog'maw to operate. CLG are unable to capitalise on their successful teamfight however because of how far the lanes are pushed into their base, and the need to defend their last few structures. This delayed timing also hurts them every time they try to push into the World Elite base as Caomei constantly threatens to backdoor the CLG base with Rengar. With a farmed Kog'maw and WE only defending with four, CLG should normally be able to just steamroll in and win. However, they were contained by the fear of Rengar's backdoor because of how ruined their base already was and were constantly paralyzed by the need to recall and defend. By having someone such as Rumble constantly needing to recall, it meant that CLG lost damage which created zoning potential around Kog'maw and meant they could not fight teamfights. If Kog'maw had been more farmed earlier, then CLG would have been in a far better position to convert their teamfight potential and power into towers and inhibitors. By hitting their farmed AD Carry timing window earlier, CLG would have had more of their base intact, which would have allowed them to simply base race Rengar with confidence. Instead, they lacked the freedom to make decisive decisions. At the same time, WE correctly stalled the game for as long as possible because eventually CLG's power would plateau and World Elite could finally break the protection around Kog'maw in the final teamfight of the game.
68 minutes into the game, CLG initiate into WE with nearly everyone but the Supports having full six-item builds. As soon as Amumu initiated, Rumble and Lee Sin both correctly tried to zerg the WE carries to try and force pressure off of Kog'maw. However, the multiple carries on WE are farmed enough that the squishier carries fail to die in the initial burst rotation while Rengar is strong enough to solo Kog'maw. Misaya deserves particular credit for staying outside of Amumu's initiation range and then immediately locking down Froggen which bought time for WeiXiao to disengage and create and opening for CaoMei to tunnel vision onto Kog'maw. This forces CLG to string themselves out with half the team desperately trying to save Kog'maw while the other half of the team is trying to distract everyone else on WE. The result is WE proceeding to pick of the CLG frontline one by one and with that CLG's hopes of winning the game.
While CLG played to the best of their ability, their biggest mistake they made was not to play their team correctly. CLG has good focus on the objective control but simply could not recognise farm as a resource that needed to be managed. It's a similar trait that has filtered into even the games that they win where they gain an advantage but not quite a big enough one to break the high ground. With a lack of focused farm priorities and suppression of the other team's development, it leads to long drawn out games even when CLG isn't trying to stall to catch up because they are already ahead and just need to close out the game. It is a similar weakness that many other teams have, where they are unable to draft and execute team compositions that play to the particular strengths of each player and operate smoothly in-game.
By and large many of the games this tournament have this issue as a recurring theme. If there is something that successful teams have in common, it is that they have really found their style by fully understanding the capabilities of each player on the team at a deep level. You can track the evolution of World Elite as each player has matured, especially Misaya, and the positive influence it has had in their tournament games. CLG.na is also a team that has benefited as the move of Chauster to Jungling and HotshotGG back to top lane better suits their individual mindsets. Conversely, other teams that have stumbled due to their insistence on following FotMs and copying the victors of previous tournaments, rather than trying to really figure out team compositions that fit their individual mindsets and team play style.
The top teams of the world are perhaps much closer in skill than may people may credit them for. What will make or break their Season 3 LAN performance however, is whether they can find what their strength is, and how to bring it out fully.
Awards and Accolades
The TeamLiquid Editor Awards
By: JBright and Chiharu Harukaze
Team to Ward Watch - Team World Elite
For those who follow the Chinese League of Legends, World Elite has been a dominating force and a household name. Yet they've tended to struggle in more international events for one reason or another and been unable to fully show their skills. IPL5 has finally vindicated their claim to best one of the best teams in the world internationally. But at the same time, IPL5 doesn't represent the same landmark that it would for many other teams. That's not to short-change WE. They performed exceptionally well and are definitely a force to be reckoned with right now. But here's the thing - a gold doesn't actually prove WE is really good. Anyone who's been following them already know that. Another feather in their cap doesn't change who they are. And it would be wise to remember that when thinking about any team.
Honourable Mention: Counter Logic Gaming NA
Counter Logic Gaming has come a long way since the start of Season 2. Even with their problems keeping a stable support position, they've somehow continued to perform and excel. And as shown at IPL5, they are finally appreciating their own style and capabilities. And with Season 3, play time is over. It's time they remembered that they're champion calibre players and prove that not only to their fans, but to themselves.
Raid Boss Singed Award: Caomei (Group Stage Winners Match: vs Azubu Blaze) VOD
There are two kinds of raid boss. There's the kind of raid bosses where your pathetic five man group turns up, your tank stands in the fire, your healer is half asleep, your gear score is so low even your pet cat is ashamed of you and somehow you'll always still clear it through all spank no tank. Then there are the raid bosses of nightmare. Like Yogg-Saron with no keepers and his raid wipe timer starting at 10 minutes. Caomei was the second type of raid boss. Have a boat-load of health from Warmogs and Kindlegem at 20 minutes? Check. Distract Azubu for long enough to pick up a free Baron Buff? Check. Farm a few waves inside their base because you're bored? Check. Straight up outplay five people and walk out like a boss? Check and mate.
Honourable Mention: Darien (Group Stage 2nd Place Match: vs Curse.na) VOD
There are some initiations that money just can't buy. For everything else, there's
“I got the Reset (yes!)” Big Plays Award: nRated (Grand Finals: vs Team WE, Game 3) VOD
Have you ever been chased as a Leona by Corki, Ryze, Irelia, and Sona while only having one-third life? Would your reaction be to stun the Corki, Zenith Blade in to the rest of the enemies and give your team a 4-0 exchange? Add onto that the pressure of playing in the grand finals of a major tournament and we have the recipe for a Big Play. This play was only possible with the help of Shen's ult, Ezreal's damage, and Olaf's axes but nRated's Leona gave Fnatic the initiation they needed to completely crush that fight.
Honourable Mention: Snoopeh (UB Round 2: vs Team WE, Game 2) VOD VOD 2 VOD 3
There are big plays that only need to happen once to really make an impact and then there are those that need to happen a few times before they can be appreciated. CLG.eu Snoopeh's Amumu play in their second game against Team WE falls into the second category. Team WE had taken a commanding lead with their tower pressure and map control but CLG.eu had a fed Kog'Maw. No matter how fed the Kog'Maw was, CLG.eu still needed someone to pin down the enemies so they can fight in an advantageous position after falling behind in gold. Snoopeh's play was the only thing keeping CLG.eu in the game. Remember kids: Big plays aren't all about the fed carries cleaning up. It's also about the junglers and supports who worked to make that happen.
Olympic Javelin Track and Field Award: FnaticRC (Grand Finals: vs Team WE, Game 3) VOD
After seeing that Big Play above from Fnatic, you would think that they would have the game in the bag if they played smart. Nope, it is time for throwing lessons with Shen. Shen was tunnelled so hard into the split push mindset and kept on getting caught and made several crucial mistakes to let WE back into the game. His insistence on split pushing made him ult late back in a team fight where WE was diving his four teammates between the mid towers. He was also unaware of how much stronger Irelia was compared to him and kept getting killed in 1v1 scenarios while pushing a side lane by himself. The rest of his team felt sorry for him and decided to try out for the track and field team themselves with poor objective awareness too. Oh, Diana is low and Shen just got caught top while everyone from WE is missing? Let's have Diana recall and Ezreal try to solo dragon and let WE stroll into baron pit and take it from under his nose. Baron respawned with WE stacking top side? Let's have Leona recall, while Ezreal and Shen are down bot soloing dragon and split pushing. Oops.
Honourable Mention: Counter Logic Gaming NA (UB Round 2: vs FnaticRC, Game 2) VOD
There's just something about top lane Shens and their teams these days.This game we saw CLG.na take a small lead into the mid game after a good 5 man invade on Fnatic's blue. However, the team just seemed lost and allowed Fnatic to pick them off one by one. Olaf was picked off several times in his own jungle while Nunu always ran in headfirst into the Fog of War like Dora the Explorer. This pretty much meant Fnatic could clean up those two easily while not having to worry about Anivia's wall or Caitlyn's damage. But the dealbreaker was Shen with a familiar theme - split pushing bot and getting killed, giving Fnatic free reign over the map for 60 seconds. By the time he respawned, Fnatic had set up wards all over CLG.na's jungle took baron without much trouble. One quick fight a minute later spelled the end for CLG.na.
"Phreak and Teemo" Crowd Pleaser Award: - IGN ProLeague
Let's be honest, who didn't think that it was awesome when Shaco or Draven's voices popped up and introduced the players coming up to the main stage? IPL did their homework and improved the Christina Vee formula for hosting from IPL4 and aimed to please the crowd by bringing in five VAs to do the introductions and interact with fans. Even though some of the lines got repetitive, it was a good gesture by IPL to help fans of the game immerse themselves by bridging the gap between our impression of the champions and the people who helped shape them. If there's something that we'd like to see at IPL6, it would be less quoting and more ad lib. Let's bring those personalities to the fore and explore creative boundaries.
Honourable Mentions: Team SoloMid, Moscow Five, Counter Logic Gaming EU
You may be wondering what these three teams did to share this honourable mention, but it's really an award for their inaction than action. Each of these three teams failed to ban a signature champion from their opponents and along with us, the viewers, got a strong reminder as to why everyone else bans signature champions. Whether these teams were too proud or thought they had a plan to shut down the signature champion, the fans were treated to a clinic on how to play these champions at the highest level.
Team SoloMid (vs CLG.eu, UB Round 1, Game 1) VOD
TSM forgot to ban Anivia against Froggen in Game 1. Since Anivia is such a common ban against CLG.eu, they rarely practice with her and Froggen claims he sometimes forgets how to play the bird. Just take a look at what can happen if you allow Froggen to play EggNivia. TSM did not forget again as they promptly banned her immediately in Game 2.
Moscow Five (vs WE, UB Round 1, Game 1) VOD
M5 probably thought they had a plan to deal with Misaya's Twisted Fate thanks to the mobility of Diana, Xin Zhao, and Tristana. Their plan may have worked if they were facing any other player playing TF but in the hands of Misaya everything is turned upside down. M5 never had a chance to pin down Misaya even and he ended the game without a single death. Snazzy.
Counter Logic Gaming EU (vs TPA, LB Round 4, Game 2) VOD
This game is even more special than the two above since both AP players got to play their signature champions - Anivia and Orianna. CLG.eu completely shut down Orianna during laning phase but she was able to come back and make a large impact with TPA winning in one of the best games of the tournament.
Many months ago, we wrote our very first article on MLG Anaheim. It was a humble piece, and at the time none of us really had a clear picture about what we wanted to achieve. All we knew was that we wanted to create the best coverage and analysis we could. Since then, the staff here at TeamLiquid have worked hard to keep improving what we do. It's almost hard to believe how much has changed in such a short period of time. We've had in-depth pieces such as An Azubu Analysis (MLG Summer Arena), Battle Reports (IEM Gamescom EU Regionals) and Breaking down the World (S2 World Championships) while also coining terms such as the reign of the Troika that dominated the North American scene. We've nostalgically started OGN The Champions coverage, where teams such as Azubu and NaJin face off against the Brood War giants of old such as KT Rolster, CJ Entus and the newly picked-up SKT T1.
Season 2 and 2012 has been a long and eventful year in more ways than one. And just as Season 3 promises to bring more changes, there are a lot of changes planned here on TeamLiquid as well. Just what exactly? Well, let's just say it's coming soon™.
As always many thanks our many readers, especially those who have stuck by us since the beginning. Stay safe, have a great Snowdown, a Happy New Year, and we'll see you all in Season 3!
Art by ~tunako (Deviantart)