Photo: GameAbout (게임어바웃)
First and foremost, I'm excited to lead TeamLiquid's coverage of OnGameNet's Champions. After Riot's own World Championship, Champions is undoubtedly the biggest League of Legends tournament in the world. With an increased prize pool of 260,000,000 KRW (up from 150,000,000 KRW), there is a huge incentive for the top Korean teams to duke it out for pride and reward.
As a consequence of the Champions vast importance to Koreans, teams have not been able to schedule around this league to travel abroad for other tournaments (e.g. KT Rolster B and Azubu Blaze declined to attend IEM Singapore after qualifying). Correspondingly, many of the foreign teams that could have potentially challenged for the 80,000,000 KRW first place (such as Counter Logic Gaming Europe, last season's runners-up and Taipei Assassins, the World Championship winners) opted to stay in their home countries in preparation for the upcoming season of tournaments on the international circuit.
Despite the absence of foreign teams, twelve worthy Korean teams will be participating this season. Through this first recap, we hope that you will acquire a rough idea as to how the Champions works in South Korea. With the world's best players playing for one of the largest prize pools in eSports history, we invite you to join us weekly as we will recap the ebb and flow in the world of Korean LoL.
Winter Season Introduction
Photo: Daily ESPORTS (데일리 이스포츠)
Last season, we saw the foreign European team Counter Logic Gaming Europe nearly upset the heavily favoured Azubu Frost in the finals, held at the Yongsan War Memorial in Seoul, Korea. In order to spice things up for the third full season of Champions, OnGameNet have made several changes to the format.
In order to accommodate for the lack of foreign teams participating this season, OnGameNet have revamped the format of the tournament from previous seasons. Instead of sixteen teams, we will see twelve Korean teams, divided into two groups of six, where they will play a round robin to determine who will advance to the quarter-finals. Five teams - Azubu Blaze, Azubu Frost, NaJin Sword, Xenics Storm (now Team OP) and LG-IM were seeded into group play, while seven teams - MVP Blue, MVP White, NaJin Shield, KT Rolster A, KT Rolster B, CJ ENTUS and GSG qualified through the open preliminaries, with MVP White the only team to lose sets in their qualifying match.
OnGameNet have also introduced a new match day system for the tournament. Each round robin match will be a set of two games, similar to the system used at Valve's Dota2 The International tournament. Each team will be given the opportunity to play on both sides of the map: a 2-0 win giving three points for the winning team, a 1-1 draw giving one point for each team, and a 0-2 defeat giving no points at all. Once the group round robin is done, a final 'inter-league' match will occur, where two teams of the same standing play each other. For the single-elimination bracket, all games will be best of five, and the semi-final will have two best of fives; a draw will result in a sudden death match between the two teams to determine who will advance to the final.
10,000,000 KRW has been allocated to the player deemed 'Most Valuable Player' for the season, with the Korean press voting after the end of every match who they deem to be the MVP for that game. In the group stage, the MVP is awarded 100 points per game, 200 for the quarter-finals, 300 for the semi-finals and 500 for the finals. The MVP system is a great way to track the hottest players in Korea playing right now.
On a concluding note, gone are the former English casters hired by OnGameNet in the very first season. Trevor 'TorcH' Housten returns to the United States to work for IGN's Proleague division, while Noah 'Moletrap' Kalb also returns to the United States for personal reasons. As new arrivals, Erik 'DoA' Lonnquist makes his return to Korea, providing the play-by-play for the English broadcast and Christopher 'MonteCristo' Mykles will move to Korea as the analyst for the games being played.
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Photo: Daily ESPORTS (데일리 이스포츠)
The Champions Winter 2012-13 season kicked off in the seaside city of Busan, South Korea at the BEXCO Auditorium. Tying in with the G-STAR convention being held throughout the week, a capacity crowd of 4000 saw fan favourites Azubu Frost play against Team OP on Friday night and Azubu Blaze play NaJin Sword on Saturday night. Additionally, we also saw the KeSPA teams of KT Rolster A play LG-IM on Friday and CJ ENTUS play amateur team GSG on Saturday respectively.
Without a doubt, the storyline of the weekend was the match on Saturday night between Azubu Blaze and NaJin Sword. Fresh off their victory coming from the losers bracket at MLG Dallas, Azubu Blaze were determined to prove that their victory in Dallas was no fluke. With the Champions début of Blaze's new Top laner Lee 'Flame' Ho-jong, Blaze managed to take the three points, with NaJin Sword looking sloppy during the major engagements in the two sets.
In the other match for Group B, CJ Entus proved to be too much for GSG (formerly RoMG), a team of amateur college students. One of the most notable plays from the series was the first set and Bae 'dade' Eo-jin's usage of Ziggs in the middle lane, showing something different from the flavours of the month in middle (Orianna, Katarina, Diana).
The two matches in Group A would set the scene for the rest of the matches in the group for the next fortnight - tight games with no clear victor. In both matches, Team OP drew with Azubu Frost and ditto with LG-IM and KT Rolster A.
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From L-R: KaKAO, Score, Mafa, Ragan, Ryu
Photo: Daily ESPORTS (데일리 이스포츠)
KT Rolster B is one of the newest teams to catch the limelight in Korea. When Champions Winter began three weeks ago, they were untested against seasoned heavy weights like NaJin and Azubu and fans anticipated mediocrity. Now, 6-0 with three players tied for 3rd in the MVP standings, KT B is a likely favorite going into the best-of-five bracket stage. But this is far from an underdog story. Taipei Assassins winning $1,000,000 was an underdog story. A young Kim Taek-yong defeating The Maestro was an underdog story. One of the first and most successful Korean eSports teams making a strong entrance into League of Legends is not. What is surprising is how brilliant they have been from their first game against MVP Blue. The infamous KeSPA work ethic and KT's eye for talent has assembled a team that could be the biggest threat going into Season 3.
From beginning to end, KT B makes quick decisions, executes risky plays and generally tries to bully the enemy team into submission. They love to create a dominant presence on the map and punish their opponents at every opportunity. This scrappy, chasing style has made players like Ragan seem impulsive, but it has also won him MVP points for style. Most importantly to viewers, it is also very exciting to watch.
KT B goes into each game with a predator mindset and if the other team cracks, their momentum will quickly snowball out of control. Against MVP Blue, they stalked and harassed their way to a 44-14, 2-0 victory. But that is not to say that KT B is restricted to one style. They showed quick adaptability in the few instances when their opponents reacted effectively. In their match against Azubu Blaze, the Champions Spring and two-time MLG champions left few openings with solid, coordinated play. KT B's response was to pull back, play tighter and be more patient engaging team battles, which led them to another 2-0 victory. We have yet to see them rattled or pushed out of their comfort zone.
As both the new kid on the block and the proud new face of an esports dynasty, KT B has a lot to prove and a name to uphold. Their meteoric rise is an impressive start, but it's the last game of the season that matters the most. They are exciting, inspiring and kicking ass. Fans should hope they keep it up.
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Now that the first part of the group stages are over. It is good opportunity to recap what has happened in the last weeks. Starting with Group B, Azubu Blaze and NaJin Sword were the favorites followed by KT Rolster B and then CJ Entus, MVP Blue and GSG. Surprising, KT B stepped up their game, taking advantage of the KT training environment, they have already won against Azubu Blaze and NaJin Sword and currently reign over Group B in 1st place. In 2nd place, with even points, are Azubu Blaze and CJ Entus. It is a little surprising to see CJ Entus in second place but their matches already included the two weakest teams (GSG and MVP Blue) in Group B. Meanwhile, they have lost their match against Azubu Blaze, who is a direct competitor for the next round. In all, it comes down to whether or not they can beat the NaJin brothers in the InterLeague and their own Group to advance as 3rd or 4th. GSG and MVP Blue still have a mathematical chance to advance, however unlikely.
Group A is the more interesting Group of the Olympus Winter Season. With only two wins out of nine games, it shows how close this Group is on a professional skill level. To emphasize how close the group is, MVP White skyrocketed from last place to second place with a decisive 2-0 victory over LG-IM. Every team still has the chance to advance from this Group, with LG-IM and KT A having the best opportunity to get 3 points in their interleague matches.
Now in hindsight of the Interleague offers some very interesting pairings and a lot of close matches. We take a look for whom this will be more beneficial than the others:
Azubu Frost vs KT Rolster B
This match does not need any big introduction. We have with Azubu Frost the winner of the OGN Summer Season, second in the Spring Season and second in the World Championship; they are one of the best Teams in the world right now. On the other side we have a hot blooded newcomer, who dominated his group with big names like Azubu Blaze and NaJin Shield. With 3 former Startale players and their previous matches they should have the experience and knowledge to go toe on toe with Azubu Frost. Probably the best game in the Interleague!
Azubu Frost 1:1 KT B
LG-IM vs MVP Blue
This match is one of the easier to predict matches because MVP Blue could not really show any strength and being on the last place with the amateur Team GSG does not really impress. LG-IM has a big chance to get 3 points for free and this will be a big help in their group and could allow them to seal the deal for the next round.
LG-IM 2:0 MVP Blue
MVP White vs Azubu Blaze
MVP White was for many the weakest Team in Group A but with their last win over LG-IM they are now 2nd in Group A. The last time they met was in the Azubu Champions Summer where Blaze destroyed MVP White with 19-1 and 26-4. MVP White biggest weakness is their level1 invade, defense and face checking. MVP White is one really solid team and through their recent win against LG-IM, I believe that they have the upwind to take at least one match of from Azubu Blaze. In addition to one of the best junglers according to Doublelift and their underrated ADC, they will be a good opponent for Azubu Blaze and with my fanboy powers combined, they can take at least 1 game off Azubu.
MVP White 1:1 Azubu Blaze
KT Rolster A vs GSG
Easy win for KT Rolster A and a very good chance to secure their place for the next stage on the tournament. GSG is a very good amateur team and it would be nice to see if they can get a sponsor. They qualified twice for the OGN league which shows that they have potential.
KT A 2:0 GSG
NaJin Shield vs CJ Entus
CJ Entus currently with two wins already under their belt. They feel pretty strong but those two wins came from the two weakest Teams in their Group. While NaJin could not win against LG-IM, Team OP (former Xenics Storm) and MVP White.
This matchup is pretty even and I think we will get a draw. It will be interesting to see if CJ inSec can hold his position as the MVP or even increase it.
NaJin Shield 1:1 CJ Entus
Team OP vs NaJin Sword
Team OP, formerly known as Xenics Storm, lost their sponsorship due to unprofessional behavior. They are now without a sponsor and should use this tournament to attract somebody who is willing to support them. On the other hand we have NaJin Sword who lost against the Azubu Blaze and KT B, they need to show that they are still one of the best Teams in Korea. Recently MakNooN was not playing at his best but if can come back to his old form. He can carry a match alone. The last time they met each other was at the qualifier for the last spot for the World Championship where NaJin Sword dominated Team OP with a 3:0 victory.
Team OP 0:2 NaJin Sword
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Player Spotlight: Score
Go 'Score' Dong-bin (고동빈)
After analyzing last week's groups, giving you a little peek into the future - it is time for Team Liquid's Player Spotlight for the week. The player spotlight is designed to highlight a player who has made an impact on the Champions circuit with their impressive play.
For this week, we will look at KT Rolster B’s AD Carry, Go 'Score' Dong-Bin. Now, you are probably thinking, why did we select him as the player to highlight for the first half of the group stages when he was not selected once by the Korean press for MVP?
His biggest strength is his safe laning phase and his ridiculous positioning in team fights. Score is consistently able to deal damage from a safe distance without putting himself in jeopardy. That is why he is currently the leader in the Kill-Death-Assist (KDA) ranking with a KDA of 46. In addition, he also participated in 75% of all kills from KT B. In six Olympus Champions Winter season games, he has only died twice. These matches were against top tier teams like Azubu Blaze and Najin Sword.
It is even more surprising that he was not even once selected as a MVP. In the next games of KT B, keep an eye on Score if you are interested in becoming a good AD Carry.
vs MVP Blue | Set 1 - 7/0/12 (as Corki), Set 2 - 5/1/6 (as Graves)
vs Azubu Blaze | Set 1 - 7/0/10 (as Graves), Set 2 - 6/1/6 (as Corki)
vs NaJin Sword | Set 1 - 14/0/9 (as Corki), Set 2 - 5/0/5 (as Corki)
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