Photo: lowClef (Reddit)
Let us take you on a journey.
It started in Cologne, Germany. We travelled to Guangzhou, Raleigh, Seoul, Kiev, Hanover, Taipei, New York, Warsaw, Jönköping, Anaheim, Shanghai, Da Nang and more. It ended in Los Angeles, America.
Let us take you on a journey.
It starts at the Nexus. Two teams fighting and clawing at each other, giving no quarter and expecting none. Broken bodies of minions and monster littering the lanes, tossed aside with their names forgotten in this unforgiving war. Desperate plays and big plays with teams slowly being forced to give way. Giant swings which complete reverse a team's fortune. And at the end of the day, it ends at the Nexus.
Let us take you on a journey.
Our first destination, the Teamliquid Editors' Awards followed by our choice of the Top 5 Moments caught on video, where you can relive the Championships all over again. If you're here for a Battle Report on Game 3 of the Taipei Assassins versus Moscow Five, we have a layover there too. Interested in what really makes a team tick? Come with us Breaking down the World on the last leg of our trip.
A well deserved congratulations to all of the teams for making this far, but especially to the Taipei Assassins who took first. You guys were truly outrageous.
The TeamLiquid LoL Staff
The TeamLiquid LoL Staff
Table of Contents
Results and Standings
Teamliquid Editors' Awards
World Championship Top 5 Moments
Batte Report: TPA v M5 Game 3
Breaking down the World
Results and Standings
1st - - Taipei Assassins (TPA)
2nd - - Azubu`Frost
/ Joint 3rd/4th - - Counter Logic Gaming (CLG.eu)
/ Joint 3rd/4th - - Moscow Five (M5)
▲ Back to Top ▲
TeamLiquid Editors' Awards
By: MoonBear, ChiharuHaru, JBright, NeoIllusions, TheYango, Navi
Team to Ward Watch: Taipei Assassins
In the TL Worlds Previews, we place Taipei Assassins quite low on our Power Rank. 11th out of 12 teams actually. And we'll totally admit we were very, very wrong. * At the same time, if we were to travel back in time and write the Power Rank again, we'd likely place Taipei Assassins in the bottom half of the list again. After picking themselves up from their defeat at the World CyberGames, TPA has been a strong team throughout the year, exemplified by their dominance of the Garena Proleague and other Asian tournaments. However prior to the World Championships TPA were in a slump. So far in League of Legends, teams have dealt badly with slumps and a question mark hovered over TPA's head. What kind of TPA would show up at Worlds?
That being said, there were signs that the dominating TPA was going to show up. According to WE's coach JoKer, TPA had gone about 50-50 with WE and iG in scrims. For the two Chinese teams who were coming in hot, this should have been a sign that TPA had gotten things together. IPL5 promises us some great games though as TPA will be back in America to make their mark. Be afraid.
* (Chiharu Editor Note: We also don't have enough people on the staff to put the blame on and bench before sending them to Curse. Back to article)
Honourable Mention: NaJin Sword
NaJin Sword for some time was the splinter team hidden by their sister team NaJin Shield, formed only in June after Maknoon left the original NaJin team. However, they are now perhaps the better known of the two NaJin teams. After their strong performance in OGN Azubu The Champions Summer where they exceeded expectations to take 3rd place, they also earned the right to face off against Azubu`Blaze once again and won claiming their right to represent Korea at the World Championships.
Foreign fans are by now familiar with Maknoon's be-lovable English interviews and NaJin Sword's style of performance. With their breakout performance in the Group Stages and their unique style of play, NaJin Sword is a team to watch out for.
Garen in the Bush Surprise Performance: Riot Games
Do you remember this video from six months ago? Riot games promised to raise the bar for eSports. In many ways, they did that. Sort of.
Days 2 and 3 of the Championships was one of the biggest let downs for a major tournament in recent memory. With Valve having pulled of a fantastic event in The International 2012, it was unavoidable for Riot to be compared against them. MLG Dallas 2011 had showed the important of contingency planning, when the venue's internet collapsed leaving broken streams and delayed matches. One of the biggest lessons learnt from that MLG was the need to always have back-up internet and to be prepared for any other such issue. Indeed, many large LANs will now hire multiple satellite trucks and have backup power in the event of any unfortunate circumstances. The importance of booths and the integrity of the tournament is also paramount. While Riot's response and decision to sanction the teams was correct, they should never have needed to be in the position to have to make a decision like that in the first place. For an event broadcast globally and on national television in South Korea, it was disappointing to see Days 2 and 3 go so badly wrong.
Yet at the same time, credit where credit is due. Riot Games constructed their new venue at Galen Centre quickly, and the rest of the tournament went smoothly. They created a LAN mode for tournament use in less than a week. And the Championship Finals Opening Ceremony completely blew the minds of people around the world with the music available to download here.
In less than a week, Riot broke our hearts and then won them back again. Let's hope there are more heart-warming moments and less heart-breaks in Season 3.
And let's hope CLG.eu can win a Bo3 faster than 5 days.
Honourable Mention: Deman, Jatt, Phreak, Rivington, djWHEAT, Seltzer
Casting and hosting an event is never easy, and especially one of this size. In front of the glare of the camera and with everything that occurred, they stuck it through and delivered. Being the front-line that directly interacts with viewers through the long hours of the day is a tiring job and is their work is often overshadowed by the players themselves. Despite the frustration they must have felt and with so many things that could have gone wrong, they still performed marvellously. Well done.
Dora the Explorer Award: XiaoXiao, iG v CLG.na Group Stage (VOD)
I wanted to make a parody of the theme song to Dora the Explorer for this but singing "T-t-tower" just seemed weird. So instead, here's another VoD of XiaoXiao going exploring.
Honourable Mention: YellowPete, CLG.eu v WE Game 3-1 (VoD)
No matter how good they are, sometimes players are afflicted by a strange disease that forces them to explore new lands with their face into the brush. AD Carry players on CLG seem to be particularly vulnerable to this, and even more so when playing with champions that have skill shots too.
“I got the Reset (yes!)” Big Plays Award: Alex Ich and Darien, M5 v iG Quaterfinals Game 1 (VOD)
Sometimes, it takes only a single moment to completely smash a tense game wide open. But to do that, you need to be a man. Darien and Alex Ich here decisively initiate onto iG, abusing a momentary lapse in iG's formation. What would ordinarily be passed up or not even spotted by any other teams turns into the play that Moscow Five had been looking for the entire game.
Honourable Mention: Doublelift, Jiji, Voyboy CLG.na v SK Group Stage (VOD)
SK fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never base race against a triple TP team when death is on the line!"
Raidboss Singed Award: Shy, Azubu`Frost v CLG.eu Semifinals Game 3 (VOD)
Singed has got to be one of the nuttiest champions ever. Farming between towers before 8 minutes, Shy gets ganked while deep into CLG.eu's territory and somehow manages to make it out not only with a kill, but also picking up all the minions on the way out too. Absolutely disgusting.
Honourable Mention: Snoopeh, CLG.eu v WE Quaterfinal Game 3-2 (VOD)
Being tower dived is never a good experience, but at the same time also creates some of the biggest plays. Snoopeh on Cho'Gath gets dived and pulls through by the skin of his teeth. Flash, Cho'Gath Passive, Level Up, CC and some plain luck form one of the biggest solo plays the entire tournament. Not even close baby.
▲ Back to Top ▲
Season 2 World Championships Top 5 Moments
Watch it happen all over again
5. Ward Wars
They say that Wards are the key to victory. After all, there aren't that many games that lets you buy map hacks in game, and for such a small fee too! But have you ever been kept up at night, worrying just exactly how many wards you need to be just like the pros? Have you ever wanted soothing music to put you to sleep and fulfil your LoL adiction at the same time? Do you think CLG.eu will ever finish a Bo3 game before someone falls asleep?
While I can't answer that last question, I can answer the first question. And it's probably far more wards than you ever see in
4. Saigon Joker's Brush Bait
Sometimes, the best strategies are the ones from incredibly low Elo or sub-level 30 games.
Although NaJin were probably pretty angry considering just how much overkill they used later in the game. Don't miss the 360-no-scope from Maknoon less than a minute later.
3. Maknoon's Teemo
Watch Metalgear-Teemo on the minimap! Honestly, I'm not sure if Maknoon is a genius or just absolutely insane. Probably both.
2. TPA's Cross-map Ace
Getting an Ace in League of Legends is kinda a big deal. It represents a complete team wipe, the complete destruction of your opponents. An Ace 15 minutes into the game? An absolute display of skill. But to achieve an Ace through teamwork throughout the map and with careful, considered play is something that before had not been seen in a sanctioned compeitive event. And, in Game 2 of the World Championships Finals, TPA delivers to the roar of the crowd.
1. Garena.TW Commentator cries after TPA's win
Sometimes, with all the glamour and glitz from these events, we lose sight of all the human emotions that really make eSports. Vincent Lee has been a long time commentator for Garena.TW and is quite close with TPA. It is heartwarming and touching to see people like him working hard for our benefit and he deserves to be recognised.
Out of everything that happened at the Season 2 World Championships, it is moments like these that we should treasure the most.
▲ Back to Top ▲
Battle Report: TPA v M5 Semifinals Game 3
By: TheYango and Navi
The Semifinals Games between the Taipei Assassins and Moscow Five was a defining moment for League of Legends. Moscow Five had spent their entire time in Season 2 being portrayed as the "boogie man" of the competitive scene. They had never failed to make it to the Finals of any LAN even before. They had won the first game of the series but then lost the second game to turn it into a death match for the right to advance to the finals. What did TPA do right?
TPA's team comp in the third game was one they were very comfortable with. While those who have followed TPA's games (such as their GPL games) might say that TPA were able to get their typical "Ballz + 4 ranged champions" team comps that they have run over the past year, that description doesn't do it enough justice. When we look at TPA's first 4 picks (Sona, Mundo, Anivia and Ezreal), they have exactly what they want. They have small, spammable disables. They have bigger AoE CC. They have poking power. They have mobility. They have initiation.They have the ability to disengage. By covering all their bases, TPA set themselves up to let them pick any champion for Stanley depending on what they wanted more of.
Stanley's pick of Nidalee, is the centerpiece of TPA's teamcomp this game. It locks TPA into their "split-push map pressure" style they are accustom to playing (and was used by them throughout the tournament). With this style of play, they sacrifice direct teamfight power. However, thanks to Nidalee's mobility and pressure complemented with the mobility and pressure from Sona and Mundo, as well as their ability to disengage with Anivia, allows TPA to slowly but surely extend their lead and steadily shrink M5's ability to farm until TPA is ready to breach high-ground of M5's base. Provided they are able to build early lane and jungle control it is safe, reliable, and does not depend on any particular factor such as teamfight execution for TPA to win the game.
The first 10-15 minutes of the game progress somewhat as expected. In the top lane, Stanley takes a small hit in CS early but then pulls completely ahead once Darien runs himself out of mana and Stanley gets his Chalice. Mid is more or less back and forth between Alex Ich and Toyz, with both junglers briefly showing their faces (though it very quickly reaches the point where both sides are clearing creeps unobstructed against each other). Bot lane very quickly swings in favor of Bebe and Mistake, even after a they engage overly aggressively level 1 and trade an Ignite and Mistake's Flash for an Exhaust.
Respective red-side invades set Diamondprox slightly ahead of Lilballz due to taking his own wraiths before heading to TPA's jungle and taking their Wraiths+Red with Darien's help. However Ballz is able to offset this by soaking up experience mid lane while Toyz backs. It is important to note the difference in item selection between these two junglers. Diamond chose to buy an early Oracles to help create some pressure for the flagging sidelanes. This meant that even though Lilballz initially opted to buy a Doran's Shield to keep up his early-game stats relative to Diamond's superior farm, he was able to purchase a Heart of Gold after seeing the Oracles on Diamond. The Oracle's will force Diamond to play safe in order to protect the Oracle's Elixir, which allows Ballz to collect gold with his HoG without fear of being weaker than Diamond and being counter-jungled as a result. Due to Shyvana's comparatively weak ganking pressure and Darien constantly being forced to minimal mana in order to keep up with Stanley, the lack of wards does little to put Stanley at risk. This allows Ballz to divert much more effort to protecting bottom lane, which feels the pressure much more from Moscow Five's Oracle.
Stanley's Nidalee eventually forces through the top tower. Bebe plays overly aggressive trying to solo-kill Genja at around 15 minutes, which prompts M5 to try and take a Dragon to come back into the game. TPA comes to defend the Dragon as three, forcing a hasty retreat from M5 with Diamond mis-smiting and giving the Dragon to TPA. With M5 on the retreat, TPA wastes no time rotating mid. Stanley's pressure is again influential here; he almost solo-kills Alex (forcing his flash) forcing Darien to come top and hold the lane against him. Due to the fact that TPA has taken dragon and forced M5 away at low HP from defending bottom turret, TPA is able to take two towers (bottom and middle) with ease in no small part due to this pressure from Stanley.
It is at this point at 16min into the game that Stanley makes a very interesting choice. Rather than simply take M5’s Blue Buff (which he certainly had the time and ability to do during downtime between Alex Ich’s retreat and from when the rest of M5 were being routed from bottom side) he opts instead to get more damage on the turret, and lets Diamond start the blue. He has placed traps at the Blue which would reveal Diamond going towards Blue and actually attacks him whilst shrugging off Darien’s harass, forcing Diamond to Flash. This lets the rest of TPA to rotate to the Blue Buff and allows Anivia to take it, despite Stanley having been perfectly capable of taking it for himself the last minute or so.
TPA and M5's positioning just moments before the Blue steal. Players have been highlighted on the minimap. Notice how M5 does not have Flash up on several players.
If we rewind just before the Blue steal, we can see just how out of position TPA would have been to take Blue Buff - Anivia is even on the other side of the map. It is also obvious how Stanley had a large amount of time to take the Blue Buff for himself and could have done so for a very long time. However, TPA takes into account the time it would take Moscow 5 to move to the Blue Buff area, the fact that Kog'maw is farming bot lane and Stanley's ability to stall long enough that TPA is able to attack into the Blue Buff area. Rather than further secure his already well established development, Stanley selflessly allows Toyz another fresh blue, giving him undeniable control over the upcoming mid game.
In the following few minutes, TPA further their lead by farming M5’s jungle and their own, while Stanley maintains his strong presence at top. By farming M5’s jungle, TPA takes away another source of income for the now gold-starved Genja, who has extreme difficulty at this point of finding any safe farm on the map without needlessly crippling his team’s map control (by forcing them to escort him from lane to lane, which would further decrease their already low farm efficiency). Eventually he is caught slightly overextended after TPA steals M5’s red, and TPA’s lead and the series’ result looks to be all but set in stone.
We see TPA maintain this pressure for a few more minutes when M5’s team comp pays off in dividends. 27 minutes into the game we see TPA group up for a gank on Genja and Gosu in midlane after having successfully stolen M5’s blue. However, after a wall fails to catch Genja out of position we see M5’s dream teamfight in action. Gosu steps forward (which at first might seem to simply isolate him for TPA to easily clean up) and starts his ultimate. Diamondprox then pushes several members of TPA closer to the border of Gosu’s ultimate. At this point, TPA cannot disengage back towards M5’s blue buff as most of their members are too far away to instantly flash over which would cause one or two of them to be instantly killed. Thus, their only path of retreat is out towards middle lane.
Notice how TPA's possible escape routes, shown in red, have nearly all been cut off. Nunu's Absolute Zero (R), shown in yellow, blocks the main escape route for TPA. Moving back into the jungle forces TPA to push past Shyvana and will lead them to Alex Ich and Darien.
Alex Ich follows up with his own ultimate, bursting down Mistake who is quickly cleaned up by Genja and Gosu while keeping TPA within Nunu’s ultimate. Mistake is unable to get off his own ultimate as he is nearly instantly exploded. (It is prudent to point out that the only real ultimate target for him at that point would have been Gosu, but the slow from Nunu’s ult was more critical to Mistake’s death than the damage as Mistake was killed by Kog’Maw’s autoattacks towards the end of the channel). Bebe, who was forced to flash Nunu's ultimate, was thereafter easily cleaned up by Alex Ich and M5 took their first teamfight in this game.
Despite finally taking a teamfight, M5 recognised that when contesting any towers or other objectives, they would be fighting in a much wider area than the choke between blue and mid inner turret and being behind needed Baron Buff to contest objectives. They attempt to do baron shortly afterwards, but with Lilballz, Toyz, and Stanley still alive, TPA are able to push M5 away from the baron. Despite having lost a gorgeously well played teamfight by M5, TPA’s huge tower advantage and thereby map control through Stanley’s splitpush is not to be denied. From here, TPA slowly grind M5 out, having only lost their middle outer turret throughout the entire game.
It is to the surprise of many throughout the world that TPA took this series off of M5, who had been touted as the best European team and perhaps even the best team in the world prior to the World Championships. But if there were any doubts about TPA's claim to be the best in the world, this match proves their right to the title as they take this series against M5 and then the Finals against Azubu`Frost LWW(W) style. Jaedong would be proud.
MVP for TPA: Stanley
TPA’s incredible map control and the pressure they were able to apply as a result was largely due to Stanley’s incredible Nidalee. Being able to take all challenges top lane, he thereafter also applied pressure bottom and denied Genja of the majority of farm being blue side bot lane offers, clearing camps, attacking towers, and more often than not Genja himself. He was the key to starving M5 out and these games were the source of the respect bans that Frost were forced to consistently give him in the finals.
MVP for M5: Alex Ich
Darien and Genja ruled out for MVP simply due to the fact that they were, for the most part, outlaned and underperformed in teamfights and controlling objectives. Diamondprox played well enough, but his map control and gank effectiveness was lower than Lilballz’s. Between Gosu and Alex, the latter made fewer mistakes on the whole, maintained his farm alongside Toyz (which no other laner has been able to do in most ‘standard’ games) and was part of the driving force behind M5’s great teamfight near their blue and their pick off on Lilballz and Mistake towards the end of the game. We were unable to see the same dominance he displayed as Eve in the first game, but that is more due to TPA’s excellent conservative counterplay than his own failures. As TPA mentioned in a post-game interview, "after banning Eve, M5 played exactly like how we had anticipated them to".
▲ Back to Top ▲
Breaking down the World
By: MoonBear, Chiharu Harukaze, TheYango, Navi
Starcraft has enjoyed an extremely obvious advantage to many other eSports such as MOBAs and FPS games: the fact that it is a 1v1 game. In this solo-play environment, it is much easier to theorycraft and optimise ideas and builds. After all, the only player input into the game is yourself, and your opponent. However in the realm of team games, the ability to theorycraft and strategise is much harder. Not only are there now more dimensions to every problem, the decision trees that are created are far larger and it becomes harder to say what the "correct" answer is.
Take for instance the Pick/Ban phase in MOBA games compared to selection in Starcraft. For games such as LoL and DotA, picks and bans are incredibly crucial and set the tone for each game played. Yet in Starcraft, your race and map selections are largely predetermined. Thus, it becomes easier in Starcraft to create theories and develop game understanding as many of the important factors have already been fixed, while in MOBA games you can't quite do that. For instance, when 1-Rax CC was created for TvP, Protoss players needed to learn to adapt and create counter builds of their own. In response to new game theory and ideas, they had to develop their own. Yet in LoL or DotA a single ban can completely nullify all the testing and thinking that it takes to come up with new and powerful strategies, such as Dignitas' Superheal comp from IPL4.
Furthermore, what works for one team doesn't necessarily work for another team. It's clear that many teams can only play certain styles. For example, CLG.eu has seen great success with their late-game team compositions that try to grind the game out, but attempts at playing more mid-game orientated team compositions such as double AP-Skarner have been far less successful. On the other hand, Dignitas has adopted it as one of their own (even earning respect bans on Skarner in 56% of their games in the NA Regional Qualifiers and Season 2 Championship Games combined and being picked by one of the teams in every single other game where it was not banned).
This has an impact for up-and-coming teams new to the scene. If you want to get better as a player, you can watch VoDs or streams. But if you want to get better as a team of five it becomes much harder.
So far, League of Legends theory has predominantly focused around playing champions and the player at an individual level. So let's change that and look at League of Legends theory from another angle.
What makes a team tick?
1. Understanding and controlling the game flow
"Controlling the game flow" is an expression that is used a lot. But what does it mean? Starcraft offers use some useful lessons.
In Starcraft, there are key technological advancements for each race that shifts the balance of power between the two players. Generally, this will be advances in technological tiers (e.g. Hatchery -> Lair -> Hive for Zerg players). However, it can even be something as innocent-seeming as a level 1 damage research upgrade. Entire strategies and games are built around the timing of these key technological advancements and allow for timing attacks. Each technological advancement creates swings in power between players and it is from these timings that game flow is created and controlled. In a nutshell, the control of game flow is about hitting your own timings and denying your opponent their timings. Think about just how important +1 upgrade timings are in many build orders, or timing attacks used to deny a Zerg player their crucial third expansion. Each of these builds are carefully created and executed in order to gain control of the game flow and then open up options for continued development while limiting the choices for your opponent.
In League of Legends, we have expressions such as "mid game" or "early game" that are often used to denote advancement for teams and players. But how do you judge when a team has hit "mid game"? When the AD Carry buys an Infinity Edge? When the underfarmed support completes their level two boots? When the first tower dies? There's no clear indicator and even if there was, would they mean anything any ways? Power in League is not defined by time. Instead, the closest thing we have to technological development is item advancement and gaining levels, and the associated timings around key items and levels such as in Azubu`Blaze's aggressive low-economy strategy.
The principle of item advancement thus provides a useful decision making tool for teams to use and for casters and spectators when observing a game. At each stage in development, one team will generally have an advantage over the other. The team with the advantage has the onus to utilise that advantage to continue their development while limiting their opponent's development at the same time. Using an analogy, it's like two teams trying to construct a tower of blocks. Each key item or level gained gives each team a block, with more important items (such as an Infinity Edge) representing a larger block compared to less important items (such as a BF Sword). Each team is attempting to construct a bigger tower while suppressing the other team's attempt to build a tower.
Take the World Elite v CLG.eu Quaterfinals Game 2. Weixiao went for a very interesting build, buying an Aegis on Ezreal after Trinity Force and obtaining both items before 25 minutes, and combined with Nocturne's Aegis it allowed Ezreal to essentially play as a mobile ranged bruiser from the double Aegis aura. This purposeful choice in itemisation was designed to create a timing window for World Elite where they had a clear and definitive advantage. However, instead of constantly forcing the issue against CLG.eu, World Elite were content to allow both teams to continue to develop their items and levels. Despite the large timing window they had, World Elite failed to group up and abuse it and this led to CLG.eu getting back into the game and then winning the game. While the Aegis buy was not the original plan (after the game WeiXiao reportedly said he bought an Aegis because he could not afford a GA), World Elite did not play towards their strength and let their key timing window close.
This leads us to the second point of controlling game flow: inevitability and relativity.
World Elite's team composition in that game had a fairly good late-game with the ability to stack auras from Taric and items (such as Aegis) to gain free stats in teamfights. At the same time, they had strong split-push potential from Shen, strong carries and mechanics to engage and disengage. The problem was that CLG.eu simply had a better late-game than World Elite did. In other words, CLG.eu had inevitability - the greater potential in a long game. When a team has inevitability, their priority is to simply stay equal or ahead in development compared to their opponents as their inevitability will carry them to the finish line. In CLG.eu's case, they sometimes even pick awkward team compositions (such as a heavily blue dependant jungler and mid lane at the same time) in order to obtain inevitability. For a team without inevitability, the onus is on them to stay ahead in development and control the pace of the game. Losing the control of tempo (whether it be map control, the mental willingness to initiate, or any other form of tempo) is the greatest problem that teams without inevitability face.
Relativity can be explained as simply as "don't try to do something the other team does better than you". It sounds obvious, but teams fall into these traps all the time, often due to tunnel-vision. One example is the CLG.na v SK in their Group A match. SK manage to catch several members of CLG and execute them while Doublelift is split-pushing the bot lane by himself. Somehow, the decision is made to force a base race. It doesn't end well.
With CLG.na running triple teleport and having experience in playing games that go down to the wire in base-race scenarios, SK's attempt to race CLG was almost doomed from the start. Instead of playing to their strengths, they fought on CLG's terms and were punished for it. But it's not just in-game tactical decisions where teams make mistakes like these. They can even occur as early as the Pick/Ban phase. Take Dignitas v Saigon Jokers in their Group B match.
The Saigon Jokers had extremely potent team-fighting potential with multiple methods of initiation, counter-initiaiton, disengage, AOE and CC with their line-up of Leona, Malphite, Jayce, Ezreal and Karthus. Dignitas on the other hand never really had a clear way to initiate or counter-initiate through the Saigon Jokers front line as they picked Shen, Udyr, Katarina, Corki and Nunu. Dignitas chose a team of five champions they were comfortable on individually and from the second Exhaust it seemed like they wanted to have a strong teamfight. But the lack of synergy in their team meant they just couldn't really fight against the Jokers, even accounting for their poor laning phase. Thanks to their superior teamfighting, the Jokers had both relativity and inevitability in this match. By being superior in both measures meant that the responsibility was placed on Dignitas to attempt to direct and control a game they could not win in the long-run, and could not compete directly against either. In other words, Dignitas lost almost as soon as they were unable to control the early game.
It bears mentioning an interesting facet of the Saigon Joker's play that is slightly unrelated to these concepts of relativity and inevitability, but is important to recognise nevertheless. When Leona and Ezreal were duo mid lane, Leona would often duck into the brush outside of experience range from Ezreal. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it creates pressure on other lanes in a similar way a jungler does.
When two champions receive exp from a minion kill, they each recieve ~65% of the exp they would normally have received if they were alone. That means that if Leona is away from minion experience range for about half the creep wave and they can zone or deny the opposing mid-laner for about 20% of the experience, Ezreal is capable of matching the opposing solo laner in levels while Leona picks up free experience. Indeed, while Scarra reached level 6 at 7 minutes into the game, Ezreal hit level 6 less than a minute later despite sharing experience with Leona in lane.
While the same principles about exp sharing applies to 2v1 lanes in the top and bottom lanes as well, being mid lane allows for the support to roam more effectively, and allows them to quickly close in tp punish any jungle invades with tactical use of CC. We see this happen at the 3:20 mark where Leona moves top and is instrumental in denying the counterjungle as well as picking up kills on both Corki and Nunu.
Furthermore, the Saigon Jokers allow Leona to farm middle lane after their solo laners recall, giving her some crucial solo lane exp and gold for a few creep waves. While concentration of farm on the carries is important, 0cs supports reduce the number of timing windows that teams can exploit. Having farmed supports means the team all benefits from important team-utility items such as Aegis or Shurelyas in addition to constant ward coverage at crucial points in the game and hitting those timings before the other team can. This is especially so if a Carry has finished an important item and it will be a while until they reach their next key item. Take for example an Ezreal who just finished his Trinity Force. There is no need for him to immediately start farming the next wave of minions for 150g which will buy him absolutely nothing while that money on a starved support who just needs some money to finish an item could be the difference between an Aegis aura for protection next team fight or a dead Carry.
All things considered, the control of game flow is not unique to many teams. What is the most interesting difference is how they choose to control game flow, and where they choose to position themselves in terms of relativity and inevitability against their competitors. So what exactly do teams do differently in order to get that extra edge?
2. Building your team right
Think of your favourite team. Now think of your favourite player on that team. What do they do that makes them so special? Is it their impeccable micro? Their dashingly good looks? Or is it... something else?
"Every team needs a player that their play revolves around. This player doesn't necessarily need to be their carry, but the player's tempo drives the team's play."
Every team has a star player that the team revolves around and this is the most important factor in determining a team's play style, how they choose to control game flow, and even how they approach the pick/ban phase. DK`BurNIng is perhaps one of the most famous examples from DotA. BurNIng is a player who specialises in hard carries and is known for non-stop farming and then carrying his team to victory with his massively wealthy hard carry. As a result, his team builds themselves around him accordingly. Everything his team does is designed with a single goal in mind: create space for BurNIng to farm and carry them to victory in 30 minutes. The entire team revolves around him, and in return he leads the team to victory. Team DK is perhaps one of the most extreme examples of a team being built around a player, but same principles apply to any team whether it be DotA or League of Legends.
The Season 2 World Championship showcased a wide variety of teams, representing teams who all built themselves around a different role. So how does building your team around a certain role mean for your play style?
The Top Lane is the most unique case. Top lane is often known for being squirrelled away from the rest of the action on the map. Remote and isolated, it is generally very focused on the suppression of your lane opponent, rather than controlling the overall game flow. NaJin Sword are the only team to build themselves around their top-laner, Maknoon and have developed an incredibly active style of play. In several of their group stage games and in both games against TPA, Maknoon would often leave his lane very early and make very active map movements/plays to direct the flow of his team. This often goes unpunished due to Maknoon's sheer dominance in top lane and allows his team to often have a tank bruiser with crucial CC or a second AP carry to blow an enemy up when taking key objectives much sooner than normal.
Initiation in League of Legends is a scarce commodity. There are many ways for teams to disengage and Shurelya's Reverie, one of the best ways to create distance and disengage, is a purchasable item that is often rushed by many teams. Because many teams are not used to dealing with his roaming style of play, they often respond poorly which lets NaJin force unequal fights and snowball. That is why having Maknoon on the front line leading engagements and directing his team through his presence sets up NaJin to take objectives earlier than other teams are used to is so important. His bold style of play combined with his leadership drives NaJin's play. Indeed, when Najin Sword sit down in a booth to play, Maknoon sits in them middle of them. His team is centred around him both in-game and in real life. No other team plays like this, and it is fascinating to watch.
There are very few teams who build themselves around their Jungler, but Lilballz of TPA and CloudTemplar from Azubu`Frost are the two best examples. The jungler focused team is the most dangerous, but also the most subtle influence out of all possible roles. The reason why jungle focused teams are so scary is that a controlling jungler advances any of their three lanes to create an incredibly farmed threat. TPA and Azubu`Frost have all been carried by their top lane, mid lane and bottom lane at different points in time and doesn't consistently rely on the same lane to create the threats they need. While both teams have incredibly skilled players in each of their lanes, it is the jungler who creates the opportunities for them to carry. More specifically, the jungler can exploit any weak lanes an opponent might have, and crack it open to be repeatedly abused and fed off of.
In TSM v Azubu`Frost Quaterfinals Game 2, after losing his own Blue Buff an invade onto TSM's Blue went horribly wrong resulting in the loss of First Blood, the buff, Skarner being sent home early and even died not long after at his Wraiths. TSM then proceeded to snowball, going 4-0. In any normal game, this would have been a massive setback (just look at CLG.eu v SK Gaming in the EU Regional Qualifers for an example of this). However, CloudTemplar was still able to set up the perfect countergank bot lane at 14 min in resulting in a doulbe kill and a secured Dragon less than a minute later before ganking top and bottom lane to secure kills on Dyrus and Chaox. By 20min, the kills were 6-6 and Azubu were firmly back in control. Indeed, at the 23rd minute when TSM catches Azubu out of position, they are instantly engaged upon instead and CloudTemplar makes sure that Dyrus never gets to use a single ability or Summoner Spell the entire fight.
It is important to recognise here that to be a controlling jungler does not necessarily mean being a "farm" jungler like SaintVicious is known for. While Lilballz and CloudTemplar make sure they keep up in farm to stay ahead, they are also very much willing to sacrifice themselves in order to advance their team's overall position in the game. Just watch the fight for the second Blue Buff in Game 1 of TPA v NaJin Sword. Lilballz sacrifices himself in order to initiate a fight resulting in Toyz being able to pick up a double kill, steal the Blue Buff and further the growing disparity between Toyz and SSONG. At the same time, while these junglers definitely focus on putting their laners ahead, they are quite deliberate about it; they don't waste time camping, and arguably gank less than their counterparts. Instead, their ganks have high effectiveness because they come where they are most needed. They are the epitome of the enemy jungler that's always on the other team in solo queue - you always feel like somebody's watching you.
It is perhaps important to note that we have seen this style before in the Jatt-era of Dignitas. The Dignitas of that period exhibited all of these qualities that we see in TPA and Frost today - the jungler presented a "silent threat" who didn't necessarily get farmed or carry on his own, but instead could choose to create threats in any lane based on the weaknesses of an opponent's team or team comp. Jatt was likewise very deliberate with his ganks, and knew when to apply pressure to the jungle instead of the lane (such as keeping the enemy jungler down to relieve gank pressure on the lanes and countergank effectively to minimize the enemy jungler's overall effectiveness). It is perhaps a pity that his greatest legacy in competitive LoL has been the "scumbag Jatt" meme rather than his ground-breaking work in jungling that all junglers should aspire to learn from.
The team built around the AD Carry such as WeiXiao or Doublelift represents the classic Chinese DotA 4-protects-1 strategy. The current state of itemisation in LoL means that the hardest carries are all range AD champions thanks to the four stats they can scale off of (AD, APen, AS and Crit) compared to AP champions who can only scale off of three stats (AP, MPen and CDR, with CDR having a much more noticeable cap compared to AS) and melee champions who have to buy defensive items and can't go full offence. However, while a full 6-item build AD Carry trucks everything they find, it is very expensive and takes time to get there. This is why in a team built around the AD Carry, the AP player is actually the most important in-game.
As the second position carry and being in the middle lane, the AP Carry helps shape a lot of the tempo in the mid game. With Blue Buff and a sufficiently large AP stick, they are capable of insta-clearing creep waves in sieges or in lane, provide tactical CC and targeted burst damage on key targets. It is the job of the AP Carry to create space for the AD Carry to farm and reach late game. Often, this will involve suppressing the opposing mid laner to remove the burst and gank danger to the AD Carry who wants to just farm while also creating tension that draws pressure away from the bottom lane. However, this can also involve actively ganking and setting up kills either in bot lane to feed the AD Carry, or in top lane to draw pressure away from bot lane. Misaya is an excellent example of this, being renown for his signature aggressive Twisted Fate play but also being able to play a more defensive controlling style. The rest of World Elite then backs him up and creates the openings for WeiXiao to farm. In the first game of the third match between CLG.eu v World Elite Quaterfinals, it was surprising to see WeiXiao's Corki as far away as bot lane farming minions and pushing while CLG.eu threatened Baron. In many cases, having the AD Carry split like that would be an instant cue for the opposing team to make a bee-line for Baron. Yet World Elite as four were able to place enough pressure on CLG.eu to scare them away from Baron and create time and space for Corki to farm for an extended period of time. It bares many similarities to DotA where four players will try to stagnate the game and create space to allow their hard carry to farm key items. While the four other players can make big plays, given that they will often be at a numbers disadvantage it is sufficient that they are simply able to be self-sufficient in lane and in 4v5 situations to suppress the enemy's development and drag out the timing windows for farming as much as possible.
It is perhaps for this reason that, despite having an amazing player in Doublelift, CLG.na has failed to convert their individual skill into results. Bigfatjiji has always been pristine in his execution of teamfights. However, he is still uncomfortable in taking control of his lane and the tempo of the game. and focusing on lane suppression. The same goes for the other players on CLG such as Hotshot, whose play styles don't fit the mindset a 4-protect-1 requires. As we move into Season 3, this will likely be high on their priority list of issues to focus on.
The final way to build a team is around the AP Carry. There are two completely different ways build themselves around the lynchpin of an AP Carry. The first style is the conservative lane-centred play exhibited by Froggen or Zz1tai. The second is the more active and engaged style of play shown by Reginald and Alex Ich.
The conservative style of play exhibited by Froggen and Zz1tai generally eschews active roaming and ganking the way a player like Misaya or Alex Ich would emphasise. Instead, they focus on lane control and securing their own farm, with the aim of controlling the game through mid game teamfights, rather than taking control of the early game tempo. For instance, we often see these players use the time on their Blue Buff to farm heavily and control as many Wraith camps as possible (both their own as well as the opponent's) rather than use it for aggressive roaming and ganking. As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that a player like Froggen does so incredibly well with champions such as Anivia - her kit matches Froggen's play style almost perfectly. However, this has many noticeable affects on how the rest of their teams play.
The junglers on iG and CLG.eu, Illusion and Snoopeh are both very gank orientated junglers in order to make up for the the lack of map pressure created by a more passive mid laner. The side lanes also have to be more self-sufficient as they cannot expecting gank pressure from mid lane. However, so long as mid lane does well, they should also expect lessened gank pressure from the opponent's mid lane as well. This results in more even development in all three lanes compared to the previous styles of play covered, where the team will emphasise the strength of one lane over the others. This encourages teams to pick more semi-carries to emphasise mid game play, such as Wickd's Irelia and Pdd's Jarvan rather than playing more defensive or supportive roles built around the AD Carry. As a result, the AD Carry's development is less emphasised as they have lower farm priority and don't shine as much as someone like WeiXiao or Bebe. In all, it is interesting how similar both teams follow a similar philosophy despite the wild and chaotic style of play iG favours, while CLG.eu is known as cold and conservative.
The other style of play, exemplified by Alex Ich and Reginald, is very different. Rather than trying to suppress the opposing mid laner, there is greater emphasis on map pressure and roaming. To them, Blue Buff is a tool used to become a lane bully, and exert pressure on the side lanes. At the same time, these players provide the initiation and big plays for their team that everyone else follows up upon. Because of this, the aggressive mid laner must have a very strong relationship with their jungler. They need to ensure that the risks taken will pay off and combined they are able to form a roaming duo. With the pressure placed on the side lanes, they are able to focus on assisting the development of either top or bot lane as necessary whether it be showing presence or performing a successful gank. This style of play also means that the side lanes need to be consistent and adaptive. For example, the TSM duo of Chaox and Xpecial are not known for making big plays bot lane the way CaptJack and Lustboy from Azubu`Blaze are, but can be relied upon to ensure they stay at least even in farm. Moscow Five's top laner Darien on the other hand has a very flexible champion pool playing everything from Xin Zhao to Yorick to best complement and exploit the plays that Alex Ich creates.
Whether you are a spectator, caster or an amateur team looking to the professionals for inspiration, it is fascinating to see how the top teams from the Season 2 World Championships interpret and play League of Legends. From how teams control and exploit timing windows, to how they draft and play team compositions on the axis of relativity and inevitability, to how at a fundamental level they build their team, there is something for everyone to appreciate and learn from.
The story from the Season 1 World Championships was the rise of the strict laning rules of AD-Support duo with double AP team compositions or an AP and Bruiser filling out the other two lanes. However, the Season 2 World Championships have told us a different story and showed us just how much League of Legends theory has matured. With League of Legends now one of the foremost eSports and with Season 3 promising so much, it will be exciting to see how teams learn from each other, adapt to each other and out think each other.
▲ Back to Top ▲