Intel Extreme Masters Katowice is this year's first major European event and the Polish crowd did not disappoint with their enthusiasm. Eight teams from around the world gathered in one arena but only one came out victorious. In the end, Gambit Gaming (formerly Moscow Five) took the crown with their immaculate performances over the Korean Kings, Azubu Blaze and Azubu Frost. Join us as we go over some of the most entertaining and memorable moments at IEM Katowice to kick start TeamLiquid's League of Legends coverage in 2013!
Results and Standings
1st - Gambit Gaming
2nd - Azubu Blaze
/ Joint 3rd/4th - FnaticRC
/ Joint 3rd/4th - Azubu Frost
1.e4 e5 2.f4
For much of 2012, Alex Ich and friends represented the very best of European League of Legends. Since their breakout performance at IEM Kiev a calendar year ago, they have had a great impact on how the competitive scene evolved during Season 2. Then came the World Championships at the Galen Center. For the first time at an international tournament, we did not see M5 qualify for the Finals as they fell during the Semifinals against the eventual champions, Taipei Assassins. History would repeat itself a few months later at IPL5 where M5 suffered another defeat at the hands of TPA.
Earlier this month, the LoL community saw M5 rebranded as Gambit Gaming. Different name but the same five players. But as they shed their old 'M5' name, there were also whispers of the Russian aura of invincibility they also lost. So it was with little surprise that after their unspectacular during the Group Stage, fans and critics alike foresaw an all Azubu finals.
Then came the crushing reality in two points. First, old moniker or new, the boys at Gambit Gaming still have their touch. Second, as good as they are, the Koreans are not untouchable. As if they had a new lease on life, GG crushed though both Azubu teams without dropping a game in the Semifinals and Grand Finals, even forcing a 22 minute surrender during one of those matches. Darien and DiamondProx played a combination of Renekton and Xin Zhao with terrifying efficiency. In four consecutive games, GG managed to consistently win team fights. These team fight victories were not always clear cut during early and mid game but they fought for their advantage while never losing that momentum through ganks or mistakes. But the greatest contributing factor to GG success was their efficient itemization during all phases of the game. During his three Xin Zhao games, DiamondProx always bought Locket of the Iron Solari and Aegis in succession. This provided an immense durability factor for Gambit during teams fight. Combine that with Darien's ability to soak up damage without dying as Renekton and Alex Ich's potential to clean up after fights, it is no surprise that superior team fighting skills eventually wins out games. A classic
Awards and Accolades
By NeoIllusions and JBright
Team to Ward Watch: Fnatic
Coming off of four consecutive Finals appearance in their past four offline tournaments (DreamHack Winter, IPL5, THOR Open, and IEM Cologne), it was a disappointment for Fnatic and their fans after their "early" semifinals exit vs Azubu Frost. However, one has to account for the fact that this is the first tournament for Fnatic with their new ADC, YellOwStaR. With Rekkles too young to compete in Season 3 LCS, YellOwStaR has meshed in Fnatic's roster with great efficiency and his stats show. (credit to esfiworld.com)
One thing to take note is that this roster change might actually be better for Fnatic in the long run. While Rekkles has demonstrated his impeccable mechanical skill at the highest level of international competition, YellOwStaR brings experience and a more complmentary playstyle to Fnatic's early and mid game aggression. Fnatic's early game tempo revolves heavily around their two solos, xPeke and sOAZ. From Top and Mid lanes to their own and enemy jungles, Fnatic has the coordination to make plays just about anywhere on the map. This kind of map presence alleviate a lot of attention from Fnatic's Bot lane. We saw at IEM Katowice that YellOwStaR and nRated were able to push down Bot Outer turret with relative ease, maintain superior CS, and accomplish all this without Cyanide's help. After the outer turret is down, nRated is able to roam freely while YellOwStaR continues to push with better items.
While it is still early to call this new roster change a success, Fnatic will have ample opportunities in Season 3 to prove they haven't lost a beat with the departure of young Rekkles. And this all starts with qualifying for the EU LCS.
Honorable Mention: MYM
Another up and coming team to watch for during the EU Live Qualifiers is Meet Your Makers. These Poles have been together for close to a year and they've had a roller coaster ride to reach the point they are at now. The team took down a few online tournaments soon after coming under the MYM name but they were largely unsuccessful at major events and their qualifiers. They fell under everyone's radar until they made their splash onto the competitive scene again with their first gold at IEM Singapore. After experiencing the taste victory at an offline competition, they are still hungry for more. MYM will on occasion field unusual team comps, like Czaru on WuKong going Mid or Makler showing his love for Sivir. As we saw in Katowice, MYM still has a few things to work out in order to be successful on the world stage. However, they will have to leave all that behind and bring their best team work along with their innovative team comps to Warsaw. They will have the home field advantage, and we will see if that is enough to give them the push to make it through to the EU LCS.
"See champion, Kill champion" Award: Darien (Semifinals: v Azubu Frost and Grand Finals: v Azubu Blaze)
Renekton was by far Darien's most picked champion in the Bracket Stage of the tournament. For one champion, the Interior Crocodile Alligator had to face vastly different Top lane picks like Singed, Jax, and Vlad. All three times, Darien maintained equal or better CS versus his Korean counterpart. But what was most impressive about Darien's Renekton pick was the impact he played in every team fight. There were a number of occasions early and mid game where Darien would dive in against three to five Azubu players, absorb the brunt of the damage, activate Dominus, and Slice & Dice out with a few hundred HP to spare. Late game, GG's plan was to simply wreck the Azubu frontline with with armor shredding Slice & Dice. In the final fight of Game 1 vs Frost, Darien simply demolishes Blitzcrank and Amumu first before even tending to Graves. It wasn't even necessary for him to dive straight for the carries. With Darien playing Renekton with such ferocity, it's no wonder why Nasus is hiding from the competitive scene.
Honorable Mention: Woong (Group Stage: v Fnatic)
During the NA LCS Live Qualifier, we saw Heartbeattt of Team MRN bring out Urgot with devastating effect. Unlike his ADC counterparts, Urgot plays very much like an anti-carry. He aims to assassinate champions during laning phase and midgame. Late game, Urgot can consistently initiate team fights with Flash/Position Reverser. But for such aggressive plays to be beneficial, a team needs to be properly built around the Urgot pick.
Woong confirms the threatening potential of an Urgot pick with the highlighted matchup of Group B. Blaze goes into the game with a set plan after seeing nRated locking in Leona. Woong goes into lane aggressively pushing. While pushing the lane is generally frowned upon, Woong and MadLife act with purpose. As soon as Woong hits level 2 (the first and only champion to hit level 2), Frost's bot lane aggros and successfully secures first blood before 3 minutes in. Three minutes later, CloudTemplar anticipates nRated's aggressive Leona and positions himself to counter nRated's play for yet another Woong kill. The game snowballs from here as Urgot becomes a juggernaut, demolishing any Fnatic champion that shows up.
“I got the Reset (yes!)” Big Plays Award: GG (Grand Finals: v Blaze, Game 1)
After a sputtering display during the Group Stage, GG showed new life after rolling over Azubu Frost. Within the first few minutes of Finals, GG's Bot lane of Genja and Edward flexed their dominance against Blaze. While no first blood was scored, it displayed an entirely different GG than Day 1 of the tournament. The kogs of the GG machine came into full effective when Ambition Teleported to Bot lane to score Blaze first blood. But a quick Exhaust by Genja saved Edward for certain death. DiamondProx responded swiftly and evened the numbers back to a 3v3, with GG having the upper hand in health. Alex Ich also collapsed on a retreating Blaze, GG secured an successful 2-0 against Azubu Flame with their quick reactions on the countergank.
Honorable Mention: Azubu Frost (Group Stage: v SK)
While it is highly unorthodox for a Support to lead the charge into the team fight, but when your Support is MadLife, the team knows to trust his call. SK retreated from sieging Frost's Mid Inhib turret, MadLife Flash Crescendo to stun Ocelote on his paws. Frost sensed weakness in SK's position and kills him in one volley. Frost continued to chase for another two kills for free. While not quite Curse of the Sad Bullet Time, MadLife also demonstrates that Miss Fortune works just as well with Sona.
Olympic Javelin Track and Field Award: SK (Group Stage: v Fnatic)
For the first 50 minutes of the game, SK played better than expected. They were ahead in gold, kills, and team objectives for the majority of the game. However, Fnatic clawed their way back to keep the gold difference between the two teams to a minimum. Alas, the curse of SK struck again. xPeke using some great Kassadin micro, managed to dodge Olaf for a good ten seconds while he auto attacked a turretless throne for the win.
While hindsight is 20/20, one can only wonder if sending Elise back home, instead of Olaf, would that have been enough to handle an elusive Kassadin.
Honorable Mention: SK (Group Stage: v aL)
While we at TeamLiquid typically avoid giving an award and honorable mention to the same team for one tournament, this one is certainly worth mentioning.
HitooN on Olaf was already facing down a 1v3 at Bot lane in the first four minutes of the game. But in a complete series of blunders: Shaco get nicked by Undertow, dies to turret aggro to give first blood to Olaf. If that isn't enough, Kayle Teleports in as Sona dies to the turret as well. Olaf manages to escape with Ghost and an Undertow on Kayle as Reckoning brings Olaf down to less than 50 Health. For the cost of Ghost, Olaf gained a Red Buff from Shaco and First Blood. SK lost Sona to turret and wasted Kayle Teleport. Probably the best start aL could ask for from SK.
Clairvoyance into the Future
IEM Katowice showed us that the cries of Korean dominance have been greatly exaggerated. Gambit Gaming continued their winning streak at IEM events by taking out two of the top Korean teams and they will be a strong contender to finish at the top of the LCS European division.
Speaking of the LCS, Fnatic and MYM will look to join Gambit Gaming by going through the Live Qualifiers this weekend. Fnatic's performance in Katowice reminded us that they are still one of the best teams in Europe while MYM's 5/6th place finish demonstrated the up and downs of an upstart team. Both teams are strong contenders to make the top 5 at the qualifier but anything can happen, as shown by the North American Live Qualifier. They will be joined by an assortment of teams ranging from the established Millenium and Against All Authority to the newly formed DragonBorns and Anexis eSports. The sixteen teams will gather in Warsaw and Poland will be the battleground for yet another exciting weekend of competitive League of Legends.
But that's not all! Right after the conclusion of the European LCS Live Qualifier, we have the start of IEM Sao Paulo. Millenium has qualified for Sao Paulo but this will not be an event for them. International travel on a tight schedule is never easy and teams will still be celebrating their success or recovering from their failure at the LCS qualifier. It will be interesting to see the clash of the regions so soon after Katowice. Will a team from the Americas defend their homeland (like Gambit Gaming) and come out on top against the invading Asians and Europeans??