Table of Contents
Results and Standings
The Remnants of the European Empire
Battle Report: CLG.eu v SK Gaming, Game 2
Teamliquid Editors' Awards
IEM Gamescom has spoken. And once again Moscow Five reign supreme over Europe. While some may dispute their reign because they never faced the other S-Tier of Europe in Counter Logic Gaming, the results speak for themselves. They now walk into the World Championships with perhaps the biggest target on their backs out of all the teams. Even a single game win over Moscow Five is enough for commentators to talk highly about a team.
Results and Standings
1st - - Moscow Five (M5)
2nd - - SK Gaming
3rd - - Counter Logic Gaming (CLG.eu)
4th - - Fnatic
Top three teams qualify for the Season 2 World Championships, qualify for the Season 3 Championship League and earn the right to a salary from Riot Games.
The Remnants of the European Empire
By Chiharu Harukaze
Europe has had an interesting position in the League of Legends scene. On one hand, Europe solo queue has been ahead of the curve compared to their North American compatriots on several occasions such as with regards to release-Rumble and Gragas. They were also the first to pioneer the strict laning meta nearly all teams abide by with the AD Carry paired with the Support as well as bringing the tactic of the double AP compositions to the mainstream. These strategies led to an all-Europe finals at the Season 1 World Championships and forged an Empire. As a result, the North American scene adopted the European laning meta and abandoned its nascent roam meta (before it was ironically revived by the Europeans, but that is a story for another time).
Yet at the same time, for the most part the European Empire has had for the most part a relatively poor showing in Season 2 Circuit Events. Multiple roster changes and upheaval in the European scene also created a radically different Europe from Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2. Teams such as aAa, Sypher and Natus Vincere no longer exist despite once placing highly, while teams such as SK Gaming have gone through repeated roster changes. The old European Empire lies broken, with none of the original Season 1 European teams advancing to the Season 2 World Championships. Yet from the remnants of the Empire, we have seen Moscow Five emerge.
Moscow Five are perhaps one of the hungriest teams for victory in League of Legends. Alex Ich commented in a pre-game interview that many other teams "trained in five star hotels compared to Moscow Five" and that victory for them meant they would finally get nice training facilities. It puts into perspective the motivation and drive that they have that other teams will need to match, if not exceed if they want to beat Europe's new reigning Emperors.
So here we stand a little over a month before the deciding World Championships. One of the most anticipated matchups will be seeing the clash of Europe and Asia, with Moscow Five versus the Koreans being highly touted. In an eerily similar comparison to Starcraft, we look towards the Europeans to take on the looming Korean menace.
The standard has been set for the North American Regional Qualifiers in less than two weeks time. In the end it does not matter who qualifies from North America. All that matters is that they do so with flair and finesse. Because anything less, and they risk once again simply being fodder for the reigning emperors of Europe.
Battle Report: CLG.eu v SK, Game 2
The strategy CLG.eu chose was heavily influenced by Korean teams such as NaJin e-mfire and MiG (now Azubu) *. With this strategy, the team composition focuses heavily on the mid-game power that Skarner provides in being able to heavily punish any champion that is out of position or has been caught thanks to his ultimate. Furthermore, Shurelyas make your ganks and ult-assassinations much more potent, while still having great team utility and offers a clear and powerful itemisation pathway. While the role of a tanky, lock down with utility based itemisation can also be fulfilled by a jungler such as Maokai, the biggest advantage Skarner provides is that fact his ultimate provides Suppression. With a increasingly more carries taking Cleanse, Suppression prevents them from breaking free while Skarner can also drag them into his team to be executed and then continue to provide a tanky disruptive frontline. These are all highly desirable traits.
A comparison of Skarner's role in this team composition can be made to Mutalisks in Starcraft ZvT. The presence of Mutalisks forces the Terran player to create defences for their mineral line and production facilities, as well as keeping the Terran units grouped in fear of having small squads sniped off. This creates a timing window which allows the Zerg player to take control and get ahead until the Terran player can reach a critical mass of units and tech and finally move out. At this point, the Zerg player often transitions away from Mutalisks to another strategy such as Lurkers. Skarner performs a similar role in that during the mid-game he forces the other team to respond to you and allows you to decide engagements, but starts to fall off once a critical mass of items (generally QSS) is reached. At this point, his team must change strategy from "just ult the enemy carry". Skarner however still retains his usefulness in being able to peel for his Carry and providing disruption.
The rest of team composition essentially revolves around abusing the timing window Skarner creates for you. An AP Mid such as Morgana or Anivia allows you to set up assassinations or lock down champions while offering incredible teamfight power. At the same time, an AD Carry choice such as Corki or Graves offers burst power for when someone is caught by Skarner. The Support choice is incredibly flexible here though, with most support choices offering important CC or utility that can strengthen teamfight control or further lock down targets for assassination.
However the CLG.eu composition diverged in one important aspect. In the OGN tournament, when this strategy was used to great success the top lane was an AP Champion. The reason is because the second AP champion gives you the power to blow up the Skarner target as fast as possible while a typical bruiser does not. The problem with a bruiser here is that they lack the heavy front-loaded damage that an AP Caster provides. Bruisers and AD Casters scale off AD, which affects both their spells and their auto-attacks. In contrast, an AP Caster does not naturally gain greater auto-attack damage from building AP. This means that the damage on the spells of AD Casters must therefore be lower in order to compensate. Furthermore, their threat range is often restricted to melee range. Even if they have gap closers to get in on the target, they lack the range many AP Casters have (due to skills or auto-attacks). By needing to get in close before unloading their damage and spreading the damage over auto-attacks and skill, these melee champions have reduced immediate burst and can be kited which reduces their effectiveness.
Just how important is this difference? At the time of writing, the double AP strategy with Skarner in the current season of the Korean OGN Championship Tournament has a 100% win rate (3 wins, 0 losses) and has a 75% win rate in all OGN Championships (6 wins, 2 losses).
And what about with a bruiser such as Irelia or Lee Sin? A measly 25% win rate this season (2 wins, 6 losses) and a 33% win rate overall (4 wins, 8 losses).
The double AP composition is very potent against an unprepared team because this team composition not only provides clear paths for snowballs to occurs, but also offers recovery routes if you get snowballed against. Until the critical mass of QSS'es has been reached, the Skarner team always has the potential to assassinate a high priority target and then immediately force an unequal fight, essentially creating a mini-snowball in the teamfight. The team composition also has the flexibility with a strong counter-initiate which allows it to make risky plays in order to bait the other team into a bad engagement.
The biggest problem that CLG.eu faced however is perhaps the fact they chose a team composition with a very different playstyle from what they are used to. CLG.eu is known for its turtle-stall late-game comps. The classic, of course, is from their game at the Dreamhack Group Stages against Moscow Five where they came back from a 30k gold disadvantage thanks to the stall power of Anivia and the late-game power of Tristana, Anivia backed up with the teamfight power provided by Alistar and Irelia with Soraka's burst heals and buffs. The double AP Skarner composition however tries to emphasise its mid-game timing and snowball as hard as possible before QSS'es can be bought. Despite its ability to recover from being set behind, it requires a more dedicated lock down composition to take on an opponent with a significant lead. In CLG's case, they were facing a team with a greater potential late game due to the Nunu-buffed sustained damage from Ashe and mass of kite and slows the rest of the SK lineup offered which would wreck the triple-melee lineup of CLG.eu. The necessitated emphasis on aggressive mid-game plays is almost an antithesis to the reactionary style of play CLG.eu use and they demonstrated inexperience with this style of play several times. For example, they seemed content to trade objectives which did not benefit them as they were not the late-game orientated team. When CLG.eu took the top outer tower, SK took the middle outer tower. When they took the bottom outer tower and tried to push the inner tower, Kev1n was top lane splitpushing and taking towers there.
CLG also made mistakes when it came to teamfights. Let us have a look at the teamfight that occurred for the second Dragon of the game at 22:45. This is the moment right before the teamfight breaks out.
CLG.eu is not within range to follow up on Morgana's Bind.
There are several important things to note. Firstly, Orianna has been caught by a Morgana bind (she is underneath the top scoreboard). The yellow line denotes the immediate distance that Skarner and Renekton can move using their Flash and/or gap closer. Skarner is not within the correct Flash-Ult distance to immediately latch on to Orianna before the bind will wear off. This gives Orianna time to Flash before Skarner can close the gap. Renekton is also unable to reach Orianna to stun her in order to buy time for Skarner to reach Orianna either. Additionally, Slice-and-Dice (E) is also one of the two skills he has maxed and and using this to jump the Dragon wall will reduce his damage. Alistar and Corki are similarly not in a position to fully follow up on any engagement that will occur. But the most important problem for CLG here is that Ashe is currently farming Wraiths and in prime position to use her Enchanted Crystal Arrow (R) defensively to break any engagement. CLG should have known this as the Wraith area is warded and they have the timer on Ashe's Arrow. Predictably, it doesn't work out for CLG and Orianna is able to escape. SK Gaming now demonstrates an excellent disengage.
The AoE slows block any attempt by CLG.eu to continue chasing down the river.
Orianna Flashes out and places her ball in the top part of the river. Nunu proceeds to channel Absolute Zero (R). Notice how the combination of the AoE slows completely block the river (shown by the yellow area). This stops any potential attempt by CLG to continue to chase. Skarner is now left with only a 1400 hp Nunu as his Impale (R) target. Due to Renekton's melee range, following up on Skarner places him in range for both champions to be hit by Ashe arrow. Notice how Corki, Alistar and Morgana are still lagging behind slightly. Once Nunu has been Impaled by Skarner, Orianna is able to reposition the Ball and use Command: Shockwave (R) to break CLG off Nunu and allow him to escape. Gangplank then proceeds to cross-map fire a Cannon Barrage (R) which is followed up by Ashe's Volley (W) which slows CLG even further and they are forced to retreat as they are no longer able to chase or catch any members of SK.
CLG were simply unable to properly follow up on the Bind that caught Orianna. Notice how Alistar never got in range to land a Pulverise (Q), that Morgana didn't have a good chance to use her Soul Shackles (R), while Wickd activated Dominus (R) but didn't get anything out of it. While they were able to pick up a Dragon, they failed to utilise Skarner to the fullest. The improper aggression and zone control from CLG meant they were unable to correctly utilise Skarner. Also, compare the two images again. CLG were impeded by the walls around Dragon when they wanted to fight, while SK had clear access to the pathways around Dragon for their escape. The terrain of the Dragon area favoured SK retreating rather than CLG attacking into SK.
They demonstrated similar mistakes during the third Dragon fight at 29:40, as the team found itself out of position again trying to move out of the Dragon area compared to SK moving into the Dragon area. When the fight erupted, Skarner was unable to Impale (R) a carry and instead was forced to go for the tanky frontline, CLG were unable to burst their target as fast as possible, and were then kited to death due to all the slows from SK. The lack of ranged burst and the need for multiple members of CLG to get close to SK due to their melee-range threat zone favoured SK in a prolonged engagement due to their slows which allowed for greater kiting and disengage.
Let us compare this to several Dragon fights from successful teams in the OGN Championship league. In the Group C match between Xenics Storm and Navi, Xenics are the team wielding the Skarner strategy. In the first Dragon fight, Xenics Storm is completely out of position to stop Navi from taking the Dragon. However, Rumble and Skarner move in to force Navi to stay and fight while Urgot and Leona are rushing in from mid lane.
Apologies for the low resolution of the screenshot. Skarner is the green health bar in the yellow circle.
The presence of Skarner right in front of Navi as the rest of Xenics Storm approaches makes Navi panic and split up in different directions. Just the fear of Skarner's Impale forces them to break their team positioning and forces them to deal with him and he is soon killed. However, even though Skarner never used his ult, he sets up his team to kill Vladimir and Ezrael, creating a favourable trade despite originally having been completely out of position to properly contest the Dragon. They play very similarly during the second Dragon fight where they allow Navi to start the Dragon before advancing onto them. Due to the positioning around Dragon, this forces Navi to string out, again giving Xenics Storm the positioning advantage for both the engagement as well as keeping potential retreat paths open for themselves.
Navi find themselves split up as Xenics Storm bears down on them.
In order to dodge Leona's Solar Flare (R), Navi are forced to split in different directions. Twisted Fate uses Destiny/Gate (R) to teleport in which forces Navi to engage despite the bad positioning. The positioning advantage allows Xenics Storm to coordinate their focus better and can disengage backwards into the rest of their team's firepower while Navi has a much harder time as Leona effectively zones them and they cannot go all-in to help Malphite due to the fear of Skarner's Impale. This means that Malphite is quickly shut down and Navi are left without their tank line. From here, it is a simple matter to pick off the retreating Navi members, forcing a 4-2 exchange and letting Xenics Storm sweep in through mid lane and take the tower there.
The key point that swings these fights so heavily in favour of the Skarner teams is the ability to bring maximum focus onto a key target through overwhelming teamfight power and zoning. (This of course applies to any team, but especially so for this team composition.) In many of the failed teamfights from the Korean Skarner teams, the primary point of failure has always been the inability to blow up their first target as fast as possible. For example at 19:00 in the Group B match between NaJin Sword and Azubu Frost, the failure to kill Ryze immediately in the initial 4v4 confrontation leads to NaJin regrouping and reverse-triple-killing Azubu instead. But when they get it right, it goes very right. Just under 17 minutes later Azubu are able to lock down NaJin's primary tank and proceed to plow right through the rapidly retreating stragglers before acing them and winning despite being behind for most of the game.
Another important differnce to note is that the Skarner teams tend to eschew taking Dragon or Baron unless they are completely risk free, or their real objective is to kill the enemy team. The geography of Baron and Dragon pits work in favour of the team that can attack into the cove rather than the team forced to attack out of the cove if they lack immediate engagement mechanism (such as Urgot's Hyper-Kinetic Position Reverser). Remember how the Dragon walls hindered CLG trying to attack outwards. Furthermore, with so much emphasis in their composition on burst, the under-average level of sustained damage discourages time-consuming objectives. Instead, Skarner teams are much better at killing enemy champions and this is their primary concern. Once this has been achieved, the team is free to take any objective on the map at their leisure. After all, who cares if you kills towers or Baron slowly if the enemy is dead and can't stop you? Indeed, this was perhaps the biggest problem that CLG faced against SK.
After picking off Udyr, CLG backed themselves into a corner by trying to continue to complete Baron rather than just leaving it alone, despite a limited amount of sustained damage. (For instance, Corki had built a Trinity Force into Guardian Angel which meant a lack of pure AD right-click damage compared to an Infinity Edge build.) This recreated the problem similar to their first Dragon fight where they limited their movement out of the Baron Pit while SK had a clear paths for engagement and retreat. Their limited mobility also meant that they would be easily kited and poked at by the SK lineup. However, their problems this time were compounded by the addition of tanking Baron aggro as well as having the Baron debuff applied onto them.
CLG.eu allow SK to trap them inside the Baron pit.
Despite the gold being even and the fight being 4v5, CLG have been trapped in the Baron Pit and cannot leave due to the AoE slows from Nunu and Gangplank (the shaded yellow area) and form an effective tank line to protect Ashe and Orianna. It's important to notice the big positional difference in this engagement. SK have their carries far enough away where they can kite around CLG while CLG has to get through Baron and the SK frontline all while being slowed repeatedly before they can engage the SK carries. Several CLG members are also at low health from tanking Baron. Currently, Krepo is trying to keep Ashe and Orianna away from CLG but cannot hold them off forever. In just a few moments time, CLG are easily aced with Orianna picking up a Triple Kill. While it is possible to level criticism at Snoopeh for continuing to attack Baron while his team died around him, it must be noted that due to all the slows piled onto him, he was completely unable to move out from behind Baron. As such, his only hope to salvage the situation was to try and kill Baron to deny SK the proverbial Baron icing on the teamfight wipe cake. Sadly, he failed and the game was planted firmly into SK Gaming's hands. This perhaps highlights how important it is to understand the key aspects of Korean play with burst compositions, which is to just not attempt Baron and focus more on killing champions to force follow-up objectives such as towers.
At this point, the rest of the game seemed like a formality. Despite CLG managing a successful Skarner Impale in the defence of their bottom Inhibitor Turret, SK Gaming were far too ahead for this to matter any more and they proceed to take down the second S-Tier of Europe 2-0 in a convincing fashion.
While SK Gaming played well and responded correctly by zoning and abusing positional advantages, CLG heavily misplayed their team composition and played far too defensively instead of taking risks and forcing the issue. In Starcraft terms, it is as if they proxy-2-gated but then suddenly chose not to attack. SK Gaming responded well and, at least for this encounter, they rightfully claim their win over one of the few S-Tier teams in the world.
* (Chiharu's Editor Note: While NaJin and MiG/Azubu were not the first team to come up with this strategy, they were one of the major teams that refined the strategy, similar to the SK Terran style of play refined by NaDa. Apologies to any other team that may have been overlooked. Back to article)
Teamliquid Editors' Awards
By JBright, NeoIllusions and MoonBear
Once again, the editorial staff on Teamliquid weigh in with their
Team to Ward Watch: SK Gaming
IEM Gamescom made a fool out of Teamliquid's Staff Predictions. (Although MoonBear and Chiharu Harukaze are pretty smug about getting at least the top three right.) Who would have thought that SK had the power in them to upset CLG.eu? During the preseason and the early parts of Season 2, SK was one of the stable teams and appeared at many offline Circuit Events, earning many Circuit Points early. However, they began to drop off as newer teams appeared and overtook them at the top of the European scene. Since then SK has gone through some hardships and went through "a few" lineup changes, while retaining their iconic player and captain Ocelote. Each tournament seemed to bring new problems for SK Gaming, and Ocelote would always be forced to apologise to fans.
A lot of people would describe SK Gaming as Ocelote's team and that was probably true in the past. Whenever he played well, SK would do well. But when he underperformed, SK went down with him. The recent additions of Araneae and YellOwStaR have provided a solid backbone for SK and relieves pressure from Ocelote as the main carry. The current team has been playing as a team since the middle of July and they placed an impressive 3rd at ECC: Poland after playing together for a week. Less than a month later, their dedication and performance landed them 2nd place at the European Championship. SK Gaming can now finally hold their heads up high and say to their fans: "We finally delivered."
Their true test will come at the World Championship and the Season 3 Championship Series. Their utter demolition by Moscow Five in the IEM Finals showed us that SK Gaming is still not yet an S-Tier team. After some hard training, they will take on the best of the world. Here, we will see if SK is a contender or a pretender in the fight for the reign over the European Empire.
Honourable Mention: Moscow Five
Since M5 bursted onto the scene about 9 months ago, they have been on or near the top of the European scene at every offline event. * After their domination of SK Gaming in the European Championship Finals, they have once again shown that they stand alone at the of Europe. Not only that, Moscow Five has an incredibly strong track record against North American teams (especially TSM). Now all that stands in front of them are the best teams from the China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. If they sweep them in the Season 2 World Championships then Moscow Five will be the undisputed Emperors of not just Europe, but the World.
* (Chiharu's Editor Note: Many thanks to Maldoinc of Reddit for the infographic. Back to article)
“I got the Reset (yes!)” Big Plays Award: Alex Ich, Moscow Five v EloHell Game 2 (VoD)
IEM Gamescom had many impressive plays and it was hard to single out one key big play. But in the end, this was the chosen one. As EloHell initiate onto Moscow Five, Alex Ich spots a perfect opportunity and uses his Gragas Explosive Cask (R) and uses it to lock three of EloHell into a full channel Nunu Absolute Zero (R) for the Double Kill. Ridonkulous.
Honorable Mention: Lots!
- Moscow Five v Fnatic Game 2: Moscow Five start an ill-advised Baron and Fnatic take advantage as Zyra sets up Leona to lock down over half of M5 who watch themselves melt and their Dragon stolen from under their nose. (VoD)
- Moscow Five v Fnatic Game 2: Are you 3v4 trying to stop the enemy team from taking Baron? No problem. The enemy have two Guardian Angels as well? Still no problem. Enemy AD escape into the Fog of War? That's going to be a prob- just kidding. No problem. (VoD)
- Curse.eu v Fnatic Game 2: I heard it's hard to hit Nocturne with Malphite and Gragas Ults. (VoD)
- SK Gaming v Team Acer Game 2: Spaniard Professional Ball Control and 1v3 kill, followed by a Baron steal a minute later. Nice. (VoD)
Raid Boss Singed Award: Darien (Moscow Five v SK Gaming, Grand Finals Game 2)
In Game 2, Darien was forced to lane 1v2 and being behind in farm during the early game, fell behind in gold and even lost his tower 7 minutes into the game. Obviously he became easy fodder for SK and- Wait let's watch that VoD again.
Darien refused to become dead weight on his team and ended the game with the highest cs on his team. No mean feat. And when SK Gaming tried to take him down, even with superhuman effort in a 1v3 fight near the end of the game at bottom lane, he just turned around and straight up killed two of SK. His ability to bring himself back into the game and then surf upon the rest of Moscow Five's momentum for more power made SK Gaming look like a bunch of under-levelled and woefully under-equipped toons attempting a WoW raid they weren't capable of handling.
Honorable Mention: Darien (Moscow Five v SK Gaming, Grand Finals Game 1)
Oh by the way, did I mention that it took SK a full 34 seconds to kill him in a 1v4 situation in Game 1? It also happened to be the only kill they got the entire game. (VoD)
"Phreak and Teemo" Crowd Pleaser Award: EloHell
AP Evelyn mid lane? Nunu top lane (which by the way was developed by our own beloved Mogwai)? Yes please! Unfortunately, EloHell were outclassed in many facets by the clean and crisp play by Moscow Five. But while they had the spotlight, they knew how to put on a show. With more practise, we may see some more crazy shenanigans from them in Season 3. And perhaps next time it they will succeed spectacularly.
Honorable Mention: Alex Ich (Moscow Five)
After Moscow Five managed to reach the Finals of IEM Gamescom and secure their Seed into the World Championships and Season 3, Alex Ich started a passionate chant of "Moscow Five!" on the Main Stage. It was a rare outburst of emotion from the typically reserved player. It was good to see this side of Alex Ich's personality, and here at Teamliquid hope that the Season 2 World Championships beings more of these very personal and engaging moments.
Olympic Javelin Track and Field Award: CLG.eu (vs SK Gaming, Game 2)
Watching the VoD again and again, it's just depressing how badly CLG.eu misplayed this game. MoonBear has written a great analysis on what CLG.eu did wrong. Read it here. (VoD)
Honorable Mention: Team Acer (vs SK Gaming, Game 2)
You're doing Baron and you're about to take it pretty much for free. You have a ward behind Baron and you can see the Maokai waiting to try and steal it. You have a Sona with her Crescendo (R) ready and a Shen who has Shadow Dash (E), all of whom can land a total of 3 seconds of CC over the Baron pit back wall and make sure Maokai has 0% chance of ever stealing Baron or even Flashing over the back wall when it finally gets into smite range. And you... wait until he's Flashed over the wall and has stolen it to CC him? Really Team Acer? Really? (VoD)