Photo: Daily eSports (데일리e스포츠)
Welcome to our second week of coverage for OGN Champions Summer! This week we bring you our highlighted Match of the Week, breaking down a game between the upstart college team, CTU, and the newly renamed Jin Air Stealths, formerly Hoon's Good Day.
Then, after we get you caught up on the matches that have occurred in the past week, we'll delve into previews for the two biggest matches of the group stages -- CJ Entus Blaze vs. Najin Black Sword, and the anticipated rematch of last season's intentional throwfest between CJ Entus Frost and the KT Rolster Bullets.
Table of Contents
Week Two Summary
Match of the Week
The Gatekepers of Korea
CJ Entus Blaze vs. Najin Black Sword
CJ Entus Frost vs. KT Rolster Bullets
Week Two Summary
Week 2 started with a fight between two little brothers of major teams in the Korean LoL scene. Najin White Shield versus MVP Blue promised to be a close battle because both teams were of a similar skill level. In game one MVP Blue decided on a poke compopsiton, while Najin White Shield went with a skirmish composition that ultimately lacked the possibility to engage on MVP Blue. Shield was unable to get MVP Blue in a fight and lost in the lategame when Blue’s comp was too strong. The highlight of first game was definitely Deft's big moment in a 2 vs 1. In the second game, Blue picked a strong early game composition that required the team to snowball hard from the outset to be able to win in the later stages, but Shield played very clever and stalled till Ggoong's Ryze was unstoppable. The second match was CJ Entus Frost against LG-IM #1. LG-IM is one of the weakest teams in OGN this season and it showed in this match. LG-IM stood no chance against CJ Entus Frost, who debuted their new botlane of Madlife + Space. Frost showed a strong performance this week, but it's hard to measure their true strength against a weak team like LG-IM.
Friday was the big night for the new Jin Air Falcons and Jin Air Stealths to show that they had earned their sponsorships.. The Falcons had to face MVP Ozone, which is no easy task. Gankplank jungle was an interesting pick from Reapered in the Falcons' debut match, but sadly for Falcon fans Reapered & Co. lost the level 1 fight and gave Ozone two kills for nothing. From there the game stayed in MVP Ozone’s hands and they snowballed to the win. The second game went the same route when once again Falcons lost the level 1 fight, letting DanDy on Lee Sin snowball MVP Ozone to a second win. The last match on Friday was Jin Air Stealths against CTU. After their brother team was destroyed by MVP Ozone, this was their chance to reestablish honor for the Jin Air banner. The first game was close, but in the end Riris on Vayne cleaned up after a big teamfight, scoring the first Pentakill in Hot6ix OGN Summer Season and leading CTU to victory. In the second game Stealths chose to splitpush with their ADC instead of using their Vladimir which would have been the far superior option for splitpushing. This lead to a lot of free farm for NoNameD on Jax because he repeatedly dueled LOAD's Caitlyn out of the lane. In the lategame, Jax jumped into Stealths and tanked up all of their damage, letting Riris get all the kills. Because of their second loss, Jin Air Stealths were the first team knocked out of OGN Summer.
The highlight match of the week came in the last day when SKT T1 faced off against Najin White Shield. Shield was able to get a lead in the early game, but they made a tactical mistake in choosing Mundo as their top laner and splitpusher. SKT T1 just grouped up, pushed objectives and they were able to keep the gold difference small. Faker sniped Locodoco with Orianna and nullified Shield's damage in fights, and SKT T1's superior teamfighting carried them to victory in the first game. Another old friend returned to the Rift in the second game when SKT T1 picked Singed as their top laner and started right to farm right away in between the enemy turrets. Singed was the main component which allowed SKT T1 to keep pressure on Shield in every lane. In addition to Faker and friends showing off superior teamfighting skills, Piglet showed in this match that he can play Vayne with the best in Korea as well. The last match of Week 2 was LG-IM #1 again MiG Blitz. After their bad performance against CJ Entus Frost, LG-IM #1 was still paralyzed and nothing really worked out well for them. MiG Blitz surprised us in champion selection with a Fizz in middle lane and Jax in the jungle. LG-IM looked outclassed in both games, especially Smeb who just is not on the same level as most other top laners in OGN. With their second loss, LG-IM #1 is already out of the tournament.
+ Show Spoiler [results] +
Najin White Shield 1:1 MVP Blue
CJ Entus Frost 2:0 LG-IM #1
MVP Ozone 2:0 Jin Air Falcons
Jin Air Stealths 0:2 CTU
SKT T1 2:0 Najin White Shield
MiG Blitz 2:0 LG-IM #1
Najin White Shield 1:1 MVP Blue
CJ Entus Frost 2:0 LG-IM #1
MVP Ozone 2:0 Jin Air Falcons
Jin Air Stealths 0:2 CTU
SKT T1 2:0 Najin White Shield
MiG Blitz 2:0 LG-IM #1
Translations of the Inven MVP Interviews can be found here.
Match of the Week
CTU vs. Jin Air Stealths
"We have strategies piled high like mountains." - Riris, AD Carry for CTU
Strong words from the first man to get a pentakill in this season of OGN champions, but they hold a lot of weight after this most recent series. In these two games, but particularly game 2, CTU showed that their (partial) University education has been paying off with very intelligent decisions both during the game and prior to it in the draft phase. After a dominant first game (where they picked an extremely powerful, though fairly standard, AoE/lategame comp), they really impressed in this game by branching out with their picks, adapting well in-game, and showing that they are actually a team to be taken seriously. To break it down:
Image Courtesy of Leaguepedia
A recent chart that has been making the rounds reveals the extent of Jin Air Stealth's dilemna in this game. In Korean pick/ban philosophy, the side without first pick cannot allow the opponent to have Twisted Fate or Jayce at any cost, with Elise being a very very close third to those two. In the first game of this series, CTU on purple side complied with the standard and dutifully banned TF/Jayce/Elise. This time around, they enacted a brilliant gambit with their 3 free ban choices to completely lock out Stealth's jungler ActScene - regarded as a "Carry" style jungler who is uncomfortable playing a more tanky/supportive role - from any viable jungle picks that fit that playstyle.
They take out Lee Sin, Jarvan, and Eve. In terms of the top-tier Korean meta, that leaves only two more "viable" junglers - Elise, who the Stealths cannot get because it will be taken by CTU with their first pick if its not banned, and Nunu who is the complete antithesis of ActScene's playstyle and is very unlikely he will pick it up.
Faced with this real high pressure situation, the Stealths actually make some pretty smart choices given their circumstances. First: they realize that whatever remains of ActScene's carry jungler pool (in this case it turns out to be Zed) is not going to be able to handle Nunu, and if they ban Elise that is very likely to be what CTU picks up. Between a rock and a hard place they decide their jungler will have more chance to outplay a squishier/high damage jungler like Elise and leave her open. They instead ban Zac (who they had also banned in the 1st game, clearly he is a champion they would prefer not to deal with), and CTU of course grabs Elise with their first pick.
All of that for just the bans! The rest of the picks are even more interesting - given that they have just handed a super strong champion in the Korean meta, Elise, to CTU, they quickly use two of their picks to grab whatever else is considered strong and turn the tables in their favor. In this case, its Kennen (pre-current nerf) and Thresh. Despite Riris' success on Vayne in Game 1, his team clearly feels less comfortable picking her into what is already shaping up to be a more AoE focused team comp from the Stealths, so they grab the super safe Ezreal and the lately very popular/strong Nami to be their bot lane.
The Stealths make another nice drafting play here, grabbing Zed and Caitlyn - the former is a super versatile pick at this stage of the draft - CTU has no idea whether its going mid, top, or jungle, and the latter is a very strong AD carry against Ezreal. All of this so far, while very well executed, is nothing particularly exciting: nearly all of these champs are very popular picks, but now things begin to shake up:
CTU picks two very interesting solo laners with thier last two picks: Gragas for mid lane and Jax for top lane, both of which are not too often scene and are considered perhaps "A" tier rather than "S" tier picks, but are clearly extremely practiced comfortable champions for CTU - NoNamed even said in the post-game interview that "I am confident enough to play him against every enemy champion. If Jax is not banned I would pick him always." This game proves that - in no possible situation that could play out (save some miracle twist where the Zed turns out to be top lane and they put Kennen middle and dont lane swap) would Jax have what is generally considered a comfortable/favorable lane for him. He picked Jax knowing full well he was going to have a rough early game and remained confident.
The Stealth's last pick is mid lane Vladimir, and it is their biggest mistake and a too safe/weak choice for the circumstances. I will detail this more in the next section on lanes, but suffice to say it fills in some aspects of their team comp (AOE magic damage to synergize with Kennen) but lacks heavily in others (they desperately need more CC/frontline with a jungler like Zed) - a pick like Ryze here would have been much stronger, but it is clear that their mid laner did not feel comfortable going toe to toe in a skill matchup against Mima's gragas.
After the craziness that was the Stealth's drafting settles, we get a picture of the kind of lanes they want: they would love to 2v2 with Caitlyn and Thresh against Ezreal and Nami, they clearly fear Mima's Gragas (having banned it in Game 1) and thus want to put the extremely safe Vladimir pick against him and turn the lane into a farm off (while Vladimir mid is not unheard of, it is extremely rare compared to putting him in the top lane - he doesn't output too much pressure against most mids but is nearly impossible to kill because of pool + flash guaranteeing him passage to his tower. Picking and putting Vlad here, especially with both ghost AND flash is a real sign of insecurity in the lane and wanting a free passage through lane phase.) and lastly they would like Kennen, who is very strong at bullying melees in lane, against Jax.
CTU doesn't allow this to all happen according to plan, but the way it works out is only marginally better - they purposefully send Jax to go 1v2, putting him in a tough situation but giving their blue build ezreal a lot more breathing room to get farmed up. Things quickly go the Stealth's way - to thier credit, ActScene recognizes the limitations of a jungler like Zed and works quickly to make plays and take control of early dragons to push his window of opportunity. Fairly soon into the game the Stealths have amassed a decent lead due to objective gold, but have no kill advantage.
NoNameD and me could get big easily and this was the biggest force behind our comeback. When Ezreal and Jax are fed you can’t stop them. - Riris
While CTU was never at any phenomenal deficit during this game (the biggest difference was around 2.5-3k in the worst part of the early game), they did manage to turn around a game that was headed in one direction not by making any major plays bur rather by preventing their opponents from doing so. They had such confidence in the late game prowess of their team that they were comfortable letting a few early objectives go knowing that once they survived the laning phase that they would be able to rip through teamfights. All credit to Riris for playing a brilliant blue build Ezreal and picking up most of the kills, but some of the spotlight really has to go to NoNamed for busting out a rarely seen champion, Jax, and doing absolutely exceptional with him in team fights despite being 1v2'd at the start. He was an absolute monster, able to initiate, chase, and deal ridiculous damage all while shoving lanes and killing towers - if more people were able to play Jax like this, he might start to show up on the pick/ban radar more often.
Its worth noting his very tanky build post-triforce that allowed him to really start fights for his team and steamroll down the opposing team. No other item choices were particularly notable except for Racoon's decision to throw a dblade into his core for jungle Elise and Mima's not often seen decision to go for a very tanky Rod of Ages / Hourglass type Gragas rather than the usual 2 drings into deathcap full AP burst caster.
CTU has shown that they are not the team everyone expected they would be - bigger, older, more experienced teams with sponsorships might have thought that the easiest matches in their group would come from CTU, but they are very quickly being proven wrong. Though the team's name is not entirely accurate - only one person from the lineup is still actually enrolled at the Chunnam Technical University - they have definitely proven that they have the smarts and innovation to remain a threat to anyone in OGN.
The Gatekeepers of Korea
In the Korean Starcraft II scene, we have a player who is known as the 'Pandokgi', or 'reader' - the StarTale Zerg, Curious. What this nickname essentially means is that he is the one who is the gatekeeper to Korea's premier Starcraft II tournament, the GSL. Be able to defeat him and you would prove yourself as a player who would be capable remaining in the top league for the season. Lose to him however, and you'll most likely be hanging around the challenger circuit for the next few months.
After five seasons of Champions, I think it's safe to say that LG-IM #1 has become the Korean League of Legend's scene equivalent of the Pandokgi. Despite a strong showing in the Winter 2012-13 season, narrowly losing to Blaze in the quarter-finals, they have failed to make the knock-out phase in the other Champions seasons they have participated in. With their only success outside of Korea being a victory at IEM S7 Sao Paolo (against some relatively weak competition), LG-IM have quickly fallen off the radar domestically as newer teams come and go.
Despite their numerous roster changes (most notably the dismissal of RingTroll and the illness of Lasha), LG-IM still find themselves qualifying for this seasons Champions - easily advancing over their amateur opponents in the offline qualifiers. However, as we have seen this season so far, they have been brutally outplayed and outmatched by both CJ Frost and MiG Blitz, one of the new teams introduced this season.
While it is safe to say that LG-IM #1 won't be making it out of the group stages this season, it will be very interesting to see if they will come back into Champions next season, keeping the Pandokgi tradition alive. The lingering question on everyone's lips though will be - can they get over that hump and advance to the quarter-finals?
CJ Entus Blaze vs. Najin Black Sword
Blaze and Frost might be the classic rivalry when it comes to Korean League of Legends, the two kin teams facing off in the semifinals or finals of all four Champions seasons, but don't overlook the deep history that Blaze and Sword have shared over the past year. Since their inception during the summer season of 2012, Sword have faced Blaze in all three seasons they've competed in. Starting off in their rookie season, Sword beat Blaze 2-0 in the third place match, but have followed it up with two straight Champions seasons of losing to Blaze 2-0 in the group stage.
Looking even beyond Champions, Sword was able to defeat Blaze in the biggest match the two teams have had, beating the then Azubu Blaze squad 3-2 in a surprising upset during the Korean Regionals to make it into the world championship. Fighting back, Blaze would face off against Najin Sword in the finals of the 2012 MLG Fall Championship, switching in the established Shy from their sister team Frost to replace their rookie top lane, Flame. This decision paid off, Blaze getting a bit of revenge for their Korean Regionals loss, taking the finals 4-1 and adding another trophy to their case.
Now, with their four match in four Champions seasons on the horizon, neither team have the room for error when they clash in the second round of the group stage. With only four teams in each pool, the group stage intensity has been heightened, a team having the ability to get eliminated before they even play the third match of their season. With CTU sitting a 3-1 map score, there is a legit chance that one of Blaze or Sword might not advance with how well the rookie team from Chunnam Techno University are performing.
The Pilot looks to take flight against Expession
The Pilot looks to take flight against Expession
Flame vs. Expession
Nicknamed The Pilot in Korea for his control over Blaze and ability to fly them to victory, Flame was the best player of last season all the way up until the finals. Leading in MVP points, handling every opponent he was put up against, and having a gigantic KDA lead over every other top lane in Champions, there was little doubt that if Flame put on a decent performance during the finals and led his team once more to victory, he would have easily gotten the seasonal MVP award and anointed as the top player in Korea. Coming in cocky against Homme -- an older, less mechanically sound player -- Flame tasted complete and utter defeat against a top lane opponent for the first time in the tournament, getting beat out against a player who was thinking about retirement earlier in the season due to his poor performances.
It was a tough loss for sure, but it also showed us how the current Korean scene is changing. While having incredible mechanical skill and singular decision making is still very important, it doesn't match up if you're facing a team who is prepared against you with better team communication and a stronger team composition. MVP Ozone scouted Blaze well, preparing well for their predictable strategies, and put Homme in the best position possible to beat the superior player in Flame. Using tank champions to sustain in lane, Homme was able to survive by himself against Flame's aggressive dueling, and Dandy was always there at the right times to pick off Flame when he got out of position or was too far pushed up against his opponent's tower.
Our key match-up for this series exemplifies this point, putting two of the most gifted players in Champions against each other. Expession, unofficially nicknamed The King of Despair (until Monte or Doa patent it), is one of the strangest cases in the Korean scene. Picked up by Najin in the very early stages of Korea's pro scene, Expession has always been deemed as one of the strongest players in the top lane, having the ability to go toe-to-toe with any of the other elite players at his position. Problem was that his team, Shield, simply wasn't strong enough around him to compete, losing to the more complete and well-rounded teams in the later rounds of tournaments. You can be the best player in the world and never lose a one-on-one duel in lane, but it's not going to mean much if your team loses their other lanes and your late-game team fighting and decision making isn't up to par against the other top teams in Korea.
After a shaky season in the spring, Sword decided for some changes, Maknoon -- following being heavily criticized throughout the tournament for his inconsistent play -- decided that enough was enough and moved onto the Arrows of KT Rolster. Champions just a season before, Sword had fallen apart, losing their MVP from their title season and the player the team was initially built around. Fortunately for Sword, Maknoon's replacement was an easy choice, moving Expession from the rebuilding Shield squad up to the formers champions at Sword. Thought of as the better player between him and Maknoon, most thought this would be a boost to Sword's powers, taking a player with amazing talent and transferring him from a mid-table team to one of the best all-around teams in Korea.
Players and journalists had the newly renamed Black Sword as the heavy favorite to make the finals -- Expession being the main reason for these predictions. With one of the best bot lanes in the world with Pray and Cain, the addition of one of the best top lane players was icing on the cake, supposedly giving Black Sword a team to match up with anyone in the world. While Maknoon did win the MVP award the season Sword won, Pray was considered the true ace of the team, and the recurring joke around the community was how Watch had to babysit Maknoon every game, helping him snowball early and make sure he didn't lose his lane.
Things didn't go as planned in the first week for the new Black Sword. Expession, like usual, was just fine, picking up the MVP award in the only game they won. The rest of the team looked like chickens with their heads cut off, picking weird champion choices like Pray on Draven. If it wasn't for CTU's inexperience in the first game of the series, Black Sword would have gone down 0-2 to start of the season, putting them in a troubling spot against Blaze. Their veteran prowess was enough for them to steal a game against the university team, but they'll be facing one of the most experienced and well coordinated teams on the planet in Blaze in their next match.
Expession, for all the hype, is still a player who needs to prove himself. His greatest accomplishment was a second place during GIGABYTE StarsWar, taking second place against World Elite. For how well he plays, he has always been the most cursed player in Korea, never having the right team or circumstances to lead him to picking up a championship. All of that was supposed to change when teaming up with Black Sword, but if the first match was any indication of their future, the only thing in Expession's future is more despair.
Pray and Draven have filed for divorce - Photo by inven.co.kr
Three Stories to Follow
1. Praying for a Resurrection
In what used to be a two man race for best ADC in Korea, Pray has seemed to have fallen off in the past few months, letting Imp and his support, Mata, lap him and Cain as the best duo in Korea, MVP Ozone going on to upset Blaze in the finals of the most recent season. This season started where last season left off, Pray putting on another disappointing performance, deciding that instead of going for one of his more signature champions, he would pick Draven -- a champion rarely seen in Korean competitive play. The gamble didn't pay off, Sword needing to get lucky to grab a 1-1 tie against a rookie team in CTU.
For Black Sword to win this season, they need Pray and Cain to get back to where they once were two seasons ago. I would say it's much more likely they're simply in a short slump like most of the team instead of them getting passed up in skill, so I wouldn't bet against them in the coming weeks. Draven, unlike in North America, seems to not work in the current Korean scene, getting focused too hard in team fights and not able to hold his own against late game hyper carries like Vayne. You would have to expect him not to stick with his Draven obsession and move back to more of his signature champions like Ezreal, but time will only tell if the divorce filings between Pray and Draven have been finalized.
2. Marathon Men
Sword did start off the season with a whimper, splitting the series with the Royal Road hopefuls from CTU, but that really is no reason for concern if you're a Sword fan. Throughout their history, Sword has never had a strong opening group stage. During their Royal Road season last summer, they placed second in their group behind Frost, taking wins over the North American Dignitas and Korean RoMG teams. The next season was even a worse start, beginning the season with a 2-4 record in the group stage before turning it around, making the playoffs and eventually winning the entire tournament. Last season, even after starting with a 1-3 record, Sword was able to fight through the slow start and make the playoffs for their third straight season.
So that's the good news for Sword fans, but the bad news is that while they do start slow and pick up steam later in the tournament, the shortened group stage round means that another 1-3 start will more than likely see their playoff streak die at three straight seasons. Sword's philosophy has always been that slow and steady wins the race, but this season is more of a sprint than a marathon they've become accustom to over the past two seasons. Better start running, boys, or you'll be watching the playoffs from your couch in the team house.
3. The Perfectly Predictable Perfect Girlfriend
CptJack and Flame recreate a fanfiction for a fangirl from Tumblr- Photo by inven.co.kr
It's not you, Blaze, alright? You're great -- actually, scratch that, you're more than great. You're an amazingly fun team to watch. Your team fighting is second to none in Korea, and you have three of the best farming carries in the world, each of them knowing exactly how to get the highest CS possible. Your thirteen game win streak was a thing of beauty, something that we probably won't see for a long time with how competitive and deep the Korean scene is becoming. It's just that I've been watching MVP Ozone and SK Telecom T1 recently, and...well...you see, they're trying out all these new strategies, compositions and you're still doing the same things you did three months ago.
Really, it's not you, it's me. Ambition and Flame split pushing, the other three causing havoc in the mid lane, and your methodical, slow pushing play has been a treat to watch, but can we see something different? Spice up the relationship a bit by trying something new?
CJ Entus Blaze are the perfect girlfriend. Reliable, trustworthy, and will always deliver. In the four seasons they've been in Champions, they've never gotten anything below fourth place. They've only had one change in their entire history -- the least amount of any of the older Korean squads --- that being when Reapered left the team and then replaced by Flame, who has become one of the best top lane players in the world. Thing is, while they'll never let you down, always cook you dinner when you get home from work, and are extremely attractive, they're utterly, undeniably predictable,
When you have teams like MVP Ozone and SKT in the scene, Frost changing it up with Space alongside Madlife and GBM in the mid lane, and rookies like MiG Blitz throwing out insane compositions with Fizz, Blaze just seems to have become too predictable in their current state. That's the main reason they got stomped in the finals, unable to really change anything heading into the finals and getting absolutely crushed by a team who have no fear about changing up their style of play or champion selections.
So where do we go from here? Last season, Blaze didn't have to change their predictable ways. After debuting Ryze in the top lane, they pretty much had the same few compositions and strategies during their thirteen game win streak, and they had no choice but to keep on what was working in the finals. Now, following the embarrassing loss to Ozone in the finals, this group stage should be a time for experimentation. Maybe have Helios get out of his comfort zone and pick a champion that isn't blind? Hey, Flame killed Reapered's old SKT team almost single handily with his Akali, why not try that again? What if CptJack and Lustboy decide to get first blood in a game instead of the other way around?
So, Blaze, know that this isn't a break-up letter. I still think you guys are great, but maybe we could try something different against Sword? Right now, you're an elite team, easily capable of winning worlds if on your game, but will you even get there if other teams can scout and plan for you extensively? Your mechanical skill are all world class, but does that mean anything nowadays when a team's composition and preparedness for a team is so essential to winning a championship?
CJ Entus Frost vs. KT Rolster Bullets
If Blaze vs. Sword is the biggest non-Fire and Ice rivalry in Korea, Frost vs. the newly rebranded Bullets might already be the most controversial rivalry, coming off their joke of a match during last season's group stages. In what was the most anticipated of last season's first round games, KTB and Frost faced each other in the final match of the group stages, deciding which team would finish first in their group and who would finish second.
Due to the way the tournament format worked out, both teams knew who they would be facing depending on what they did in their final match. Winning the series and grabbing the first place spot would match them up against the slow starting, but always strong in the playoffs, Najin Sword, the defending champions of the previous season. A loss in the series for either team would have dropped them down to second, putting them against MVP Ozone, a good team, but at the time completely reliant on one thing -- keeping their ADC, imp, safe at all times and hope that if they could get past the thirty minute mark with him farmed, they would be able to win with the other four members of the teams doing everything in their power to protect their star.
It was no surprise to anyone on who each team hoped to see in the playoffs, wanting to face off against an inexperienced team that's main strategy for winning was heavily dependent on a single player, then take their chances against the experienced, defending champions with more than just one player that could carry a game to victory. So, in true sportsmanlike fashion, both teams decided that throwing the final match would be their best option to get farther in the tournament. CJ Entus Frost replaced their starting bot lane of Hermes and Madlife for Space and Muse, letting their star players "rest" before the playoffs kicked off.
In the end, KT Rolster proved to be the stronger team at throwing games, ending the charade of a series as the de facto winners. This gave them the easier side of the bracket, getting to dodge the three previous champions until the finals and let them take each other out. Obviously, as you know now if you've been following Champions, their decision to throw turned out to be the worst decision the team had ever made, losing to Ozone 3-1 in the quarterfinals and being knocked out of the tournament for the second straight season without a finals appearance. Not only did they get eliminated from the tournament, but they faced heavy backlash online from fans, angered that a match they were looking forward to was marred by neither team giving it their best.
Frost, who won the series and faced Sword, were able to thwart the repeat campaign of Sword, but got a small taste of their own karma when they faced off against their sister team Blaze in the semifinals and got swept 3-0. Ozone, the team that no one thought was worth anything in the playoffs, decided to turn into the best team in the world during the playoffs, wrecking everyone in their path and ending up as the season champion.
Now with both teams thrown back together in the group stages, we will get the chance to finally see a true match against two of the strongest and most popular teams in the world. With how much scrutiny both teams and the tournament itself received from the Frost vs. KTB match from last season, the rules of the group stages were changed for the season. No longer will teams know who they will be facing in the knockout rounds, stopping teams from taking nights off to try and get the opponent they want in the knockout rounds.
With MiG Blitz nipping at the heels of both teams and the new playoff rules implemented, there is no chance of purposely throwing this time around when these two teams play this time around. Both teams are ready to wash off the dirt from last season's mess, so which of these two giants will get the upper hand when they play against each other for the first time at full strength?
Insec ponders the true meaning of (Mad)life - Photo by inven.co.kr
Insec ponders the true meaning of (Mad)life - Photo by inven.co.kr
Shy vs. inSec
As with our first key match-up of the week, all eyes will be in the top lane when Insec faces his first true test as a top laner against one of the other elite players at the position, Shy. Sitting at third and first place respectively on the KDA rankings, it's hard to argue that the two players alongside CJ Entus Blaze's Flame aren't currently a cut above the rest of the top laners in Champions -- historically the deepest position in Korea. Insec was able to silence every critic who thought his change to the top lane was gimmicky or ill advised, picking up over thirty assists in his first two games in his new role and being a key factor to why they started off the season 2-0 against the innovative, wild rookies from Woong's new MiG Blitz.
While Apple from MiG Blitz seems to be a good up-and-comer and would probably be the leader of this season's rookie award if not for Riris from CTU, there is no comparison when moving from an inexperienced rookie to one of the CJ Entus Top Duo, a seasoned champion with a practice partner who is at the same skill level or even better to play with every day. Shy, coming off two games where he didn't die once, is looking better than he has since the end of Season 2, where he helped Frost get all the way to the world finals before getting stopped by the Taipei Assassins.
If eating up Apple was Insec's introductory exam to the world of the top lane, then going up against Shy will be like a final exam. If Insec can succeeded for the second straight match, out duel Shy in the top lane and help his team clinch first place in the group, there really will be no more questions on if Insec's decision to change positions was an ill advised choice. He will become a truly elite, legit force in the top lane, throwing his name in the same hat as the two players from the CJ Entus teams.
Although, if he fails, and let's say gets completely beaten down in lane like Shy did to poor Smeb last week, then it suddenly becomes a question if Insec isn't at the level yet of an elite top lane player, or if Shy has completely evolved from where he was a season ago and is continuing to distance himself from the pack, with his practice partner, Flame, as the only player to contend with him for the throne at his position. While his games against MiG Blitz were a fun sight to see, proving that he is able to crush relative newcomers to Champions, his games against Shy will be a true litmus test to see where Insec stacks up in the deepest position in the tournament.
In terms of which weapons both players will use against each other, it'll be interesting to see if Insec continues his trend of picking tanky, durable champions in lane. Going for Shen and Zac in his last series, the fans have been crossing their fingers to see if he'll opt for one of his jungle play making champions such as Lee Sin or Zed, wanting to see if he can transition his signature champions to the top lane to carry the game in a more comfortable position to do so. Insec and Kakao trolled during their games against MiG Blitz by continually switching Lee Sin between the top and jungle slot before finally deciding to give him to Kakao -- another of the top Lee Sin players in Korea -- and teasing the crowd for what might be coming in the future.
For Shy, he picked Vlad and Shen last series to great effect, so a Vlad pick-up after his insane split push game against LG-IM would not be that big of a shock in his next series against the Bullets. While he might lay claim to being the best Jayce player on the planet, the odds of him actually getting his signature champion are almost zero. The KT Bullets did leave him open for their game against MiG Blitz, but it would mean almost certain death -- even with Insec -- by giving Shy his Jayce before Riot hits him with the nerf cannon in the upcoming patch.
Insec punches Kakao after being told Lee Sin isn't viable in the top lane - Photo by inven.co.kr
Three Stories to Follow
1. The Kakao Factor
One thing that is almost never discussed when talking about Insec's move to the top lane is that it allowed Kakao to return from the hell that was KT Rolster A. With KT Rolster picking up Insec from the original CJ Entus, this gave them two of the best junglers in Korea, deciding to move Kakao to the "A-team", hoping that he would be able to help them get farther than they did the season before. The decision really didn't help either of the teams, KT Rolster A finishing in last place of their group -- having finished in the top eight last season -- and KT Rolster B getting knocked out in the quarterfinals when they had won gotten third place in their Royal Road season.
Kakao's move back to the Bullets can't be seen as anything but a good move for both sides, letting them get back the jungler that helped them get so far in their first season, and allowing Insec, one of the most mechanically gifted players in the world, move to a position where he will have more opportunities to carry a game with his ultra aggressive, all-out style.
2. Welcome to the Space Jam
In five seasons Frost has gone through four different AD Carry starters. From the extravagant, outspoken Locodoco; to the brilliant tactician, but prone to cheating Woong; to the silent and heavily criticized Hermes from the former MVP Blue; now, on their fourth ADC, CJ Entus Frost believe they've finally found their man that can create a world class duo with the best support player in the world, Madlife. Space, a player who was a sub for Frost last season and said he would only play with his long-time bot partner Muse, finally decided that being a starter for the most popular team in Korea and creating a partnership with the most popular player in Korea could actually be a pretty cool thing.
His first games with his new team couldn't have gone any better, picking up a quadrakill on Vayne, and picking up kill after kill in the laning phase -- something that Frost fans haven't seen in a very long time. At times he was too wild, diving turrets too much and ending up with himself getting killed in the process, but with how far ahead Frost during those points in the game, it really didn't mean much at the end of the day. Shy, for the first time in a long while, didn't need to feel the need to carry the team with kills, happily becoming a role player to protect Space and let him rack up his kills in his debut match as a starter alongside Madlife.
But, if you've been watching all the games this season, you would have learned something very interesting about Frost's first series opponents, LG-IM #1 -- they're extremely bad. Well, I'm sure if you dropped them off in the NA or EU LCS, LG-IM would have a good chance to place in the top three or win the entire tournament, but relative to the competition in Korea? They're just not good. In a tournament where a team's decision making, compositions, and tactics can beat even the most skilled teams one through five, LG-IM #1 just can't stand up even against a rookie team like MiG Blitz -- who might not have an all-star on the team or the best skill across the line-up, but know how to play a team composition to its fullest and work as a five man unit to win a game.
So while it would be awesome to get on the Space Jam hype train, we can't make a concrete assessment of him until he plays against a stronger team. Similar to Insec having to go from Apple to Shy, Space will get a gigantic leap in competition when having to go up against Mafa and Score, one of the better duos in Korea for the past two seasons. If Space can continue to win his lane, carry with kills, and delight the crowd with great combo play with Madlife, then by all means, pump up the Space Jam and start writing those Madlife and Space fanfiction.
Son, why is "Ganked by Mom" in your Google searches? - Photo by inven.co.kr
3. Rapidstar to be Ganked By Mom?
With his explosive arrival onto the scene, Ganked By Mom is making a name for himself, putting on a strong showing with his Orianna in his first two games against LG-IM #1. Now, with how Rapidstar fell off during the end of last season, the question is if GBM could actually be working his way to the starting mid position -- the same way that Space went from a sub last season to being the starting ADC this tournament. As mentioned in our previous story, we really can't make any true judgments off GBM's awesome performance against LG-IM #1, because the player he played against, MidKing, might be in the running for worst KDA in Champions history if he continues his record setting pace.
But, even with the fact that GBM's stats might not be as good against some of the stronger teams in Korea, this still puts an immense amount of pressure for Rapidstar in the upcoming games against the Bullets. Barring some fallout between Rapidstar and the team, you would have to believe he would be the starter against the Bullets -- the Frost team knowing that LG-IM #1 would be an easier opponent, giving GBM the essential playing time he needs in the booth to grow as a player that they might need in later rounds.
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