Photo: GameAbout (게임어바웃)
Welcome to our fourth Winter season review. First of all I would like to announce that we have a new writer in our ranks. Atrioc decided to join and help us to produce more content faster. We have entered the final stage in NLB and OGN. GTR will walk us trough the Seed Challenge match. My part will be about the 3rd placement match in the OGN League and a review from the NLB semi-finals. Our new member will hype you for the Finals on Saturday. Last but not least we have staff predicions for the Finals. I hope you enjoy it and as always if you have any suggestions on what we can improve. Let us know
Table of Contents
NLB Winter League
3rd Place Match, the KaKAO story
Najin Shield 3 - 1 MVP Blue
With only a small amount of spots available for grabs through the open qualifiers for the Champions, the winner of the Seed Challenge would be given a lifeline, through automatic qualification for the next season of Champions. This avoids the arduous task of having to go through the offline qualifiers, where one off-day could see a team miss out on top-tier tournament play for the next few months.
It was only a couple of days beforehand when Shield lost in the NLB Winter semi-finals against a gutsy GSG team. Coming into the Champions tournament, Shield looked poised for at least a quarter-final spot with strong performances in the Korean IPL5 qualifier. However, thrown into a tough group that included Azubu Frost, LG-IM and Team OP, they performed below expectations and as a result, missed out on a quarter-final spot and placed fifth in Group A.
Despite the stacked Group A, Group B was a different story, with the top four teams to advance to the quarter-finals clear from the get go. Unfortunately for MVP Blue, they were no match for the likes of Azubu Blaze, KT Rolster B and CJ Entus. Draws against NaJin Sword and GSG would allow them to take fifth place in the group and subsequently, the opportunity to play in the Seed Challenge.
Looking at the match-up on paper, it appeared that Shield were the favourites going into this series. However, there were a few issues that affected their chances. Firstly, losing to GSG in the NLB tournament would have not done them favours for their confidence. It was possible that they were still shaken from the demoralizing loss to them. This leads to the second and most important note - Shield have been working with two substitutes, as their jungler MOKUZA and support viNylCat were struck down with an undisclosed illness. Consequently, Raoching - a former World of Warcraft arena player and Wolf - a Korean solo queue star, were recruited in place for MOKUZA and viNylCat respectively. There is no doubt that it could have just been a lack of synergy amongst the players resulted in Shield's loss in the NLB tournament. Therefore, the Seed Challenge was where Shield could make amends for that.
During the first two sets, while Blue would get first blood and some early tower kills, Shield demonstrated their superiority in the team fights, allowing them to establish a 2-0 lead. The only solace Blue were able to take away from the series was a victory in the third set, where a perfect engagement by their jungler NoFe on Amumu allowed them to ride their momentum towards a win. In the last set, we saw Blue fail to take Baron twice after managing to push into the Shield base, resulting in a 3-1 victory for Shield.
Despite winning qualification for the next season of Champions, questions still loom around the once-strong NaJin Shield team. Are they able to come back to full-strength once MOKUZA and viNylCat return from illness? Can Raoching and Wolf continue to perform to their standard? We will have to look at the tournaments pre-Fall Champions to find out.
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NLB Winter League
GSG versus Najin Shield
Lately, any games with GSG have been fascinating and this one was no exception. GSG chose Twitch jungle and opted for Lee Sin toplane. First game started with an invade from Najin Shield. They went to GSG wraith and warded wraith brush, so when Clear and Easy went to get their wraiths Najin gold card stunned Karthus and killed him for first blood. Twitch came to gank Toplane but GSG got counterganked from by Najin Shield. Hoon used his Twisted Fate ultimate to teleport in and Nocturne was already waiting in the brush. In addition Wolf and BANG were on their way to top too. Clear tried to teleport in with Lee Sin but Najin was able to get 2 kills in exchange for 1. Shield managed to pick some kills up and extended their lead after that point. At 16 minutes Shield engaged on GSG on their mid turret. They got out with 4 kills in exchange for 2 and extended their gold lead to 7k. From there the game was pretty much over. GSG tried to come back but Shield was just too strong.
The first game was a bad start for GSG but the second one was more much worse. GSG tried to invade like Najin in the first game but Shield was already waiting for them and got a quick kill on Nocturne and on Twisted Fate. 10 minutes into the game Hoon overextended a little bit and Twisted Fate and Nocturne used their ultimate to flank Hoon and get the first kill for GSG. Expression tried to save Hoon with his ultimate but Clear flinged him with Singed and stopped his teleportation. Najin seemed unimpressed and tried to gank bottom lane a few minutes later. Amumu came from behind with Shen teleporting on him but Cheonju dodged the Amumu ultimate and bandage but was hit from the Shen taunt and BANG was able to pick the kill up. GSG Mandu got away safely because he walked into the brush and recalled back home while Najin focused on Cheonju. This allowed Shield to take the first Dragon of the game. The first important step to turn the game around was the fight at bottom lane. Four members of Shield were present while Ryze splitpushed top. Shen used his ultimate to save MF. Shield engaged on GSG and got a really nice Amumu ult and as MF just started to channel her ultimate. But GSG SoLo feared Bang miliseconds after he used his ultimate which allowed GSG to turn this fight around and get three kills for nothing. Another teamfight occurred mid where Mandu managed two really nice max range stuns from LeBlanc on the edge of Amumu ultimate. 25 minutes into the game and GSG had a small gold and a 4 kill lead. GSG has a small gold and 4 kill lead 25 minutes into the game Shield clawed into the game and won teamfights but GSG with the better objective control allowed them to have a gold lead. Refusing to give up, Shield caught Clear out of position and won a teamfight pretty easily but then Cheonju with badass plays managed to get two kills in a 4vs2. At minute 45 GSG took Baron. Roaching tried to steal it with shen ultimate on him but Clear just flinged him away. Big teamfight went down right after Baron but nobody on either team died. Equipped with Baron buff GSG managed to take two additional Turrets easily and contained Shield in their base. The last fight started with a big nocturne dive but GSG was so far ahead that even a really nice Ulitmate from BANG could not save Shield
Again GSG lost the level 1 fight when they tried to steal Shield's Red. 2:0 for Shield right off the bat. GSG tried to steal the second blue but they were spotted and another two kills and a Dragon went to Shield. With a 7k gold lead before 20 minutes GSG tried their best but Shield did not give this game away.
This time nobody died at level 1 (big improvement for GSG). SoLo managed to get first blood after Ezreal used his "e" to escape but got flinged back by Singed and killed by the Viking. GSG managed to take two towers before 8 minutes. GSG had a 5k gold lead before the first teamfight started. They tried to contest Shield's blue but Olaf got caught out of position and Shield managed to get two kills even though they were all low on health. Shield could not disengage and crumbled under the survivors of GSG which resulted in the first ace of the game. From that point GSG was just too strong and won the game.
was epic and I am not going to spoil it here. Do yourself a favor and watch the VOD from nicegametv. The only things I will say is that there were no ADC and GSG won, but the game itself was amazing. Watch it!
MVP Blue versus CJ Entus
The question was "Can MVP Blue bring the same performance as they did against KT A?" If so, they would have a chance to defeat CJ Entus, who looked really strong in the OGN tournament. MVP Blue did not play poorly and were not outclassed. Instead the games were really close but CJ Entus was just a little bit better. This led to CJ Entus turning it around in the mid game, establishing a small lead and winning from that point on. MVP Blue improved a lot while playing in the NLB tournament. They showed that they are not a walkover like it seemed after the OGN Group Stages. CJ Entus was just the better team and advanced to the finals to meet GSG.
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3rd Place Match
KT Rolster B versus Azubu Blaze, the KaKAO story
Azubu Blaze chose a lategame oriented composition. The first action was a nice gold card stun from Ryu on Ambition allowing KaKAO to use his "e" on XinZhao, closing the deal for first blood. Shortly after that Helios caught KaKAO in his jungle but with Shen turned 6 already and help of Twisted Fate they turned the fight around. KaKAO was everywhere in the exact right moment to assist on kills. KT B set the tempo of the game which resulted in 3:0 turrets and 1:0 Dragon for them at 20 minutes. But Blaze forced a teamfight with Miss Fortune out of position so Score could not use her ultimate to the fullest potential. This secured Blaze the upperhand in this teamfight. With the momentum on her side they try to push top but Cpt. Jack stays a little to long and got hit by the turret. KaKAO exploited this situation and dove into the team, backed up by Shen ultimate. Ragan got a beautiful taunt on Blaze and Score with a nice Miss Fortune ultimate destroyed Blaze. A dragon and few minutes later KT B started attacking Baron but Blaze was near and tried to stop it. Really nice teamfight but in the end KT B got a kill, chased away Blaze and secured Baron.With Baron buff and a 15k gold lead KT B could easily take Bot inhib.The last teamfight of this game was the 2nd Baron dance but KT B was just too strong and annhiliated Blaze which resulted in a surrender from Blaze.
KT B sendsent their bot lane mid to force Kassadin to go to bot toand restrict his ability to roam. KaKAO gets a kill on Shy Olaf and as a result they get an early top tower at 5 min. 2 minutes later KT B gets the first dragon. Blaze could not contest because Score and Mafa forced Cpt. Jack and Lustboy to go back. KaKAO is waiting for a gank in bottom lulu slows MF that triggers KaKAO flash engage on MF + Lulu ult no chance for Cpt. Jack to survive.KaKAO went to gank bottom, and when Lulu slowed MF, it triggered KaKAO's Flash engage with MF+Lulu ult, leaving no chance for Cpt. Jack to survive. Blaze gets the second dragon but allows a lot of free damage to their mid and second top turret and lose their blue. KaKAO tries to get another gank off, but Lustboy Crescendo stops him though it cannot stop KT B from taking bottom turret. KT B next move was to kill mid turret. Amibition Riftwalks to the minions to save his turret but KaKAO shows up, kills ambition, and they lose their mid turret. Dragon dance started but MF for Blaze and Irelia for KT B stayed in mid lane to push the lane. When the lane was in favor of Blaze the whole team switched to try to take mid turret but Ragan engages on four members, nearly kills Cpt. Jack, and takes Ambition low too. Blaze retreats and casts an nice Crescendo + Bullet Time but wasn't enough. Ambition dies to Ignite and Helios gets caught by Ragan and Score. The Result of this skirmish was 2 kills for KT B and both inner mid and mid inhib turret.. Blaze gets the third dragon. Helios gets caught in his own jungle and KT B gets the first inhib but they stay a little too long. With the freshly respawned Helios Blaze engages on KT and get their first two kills of the game. Blaze pushes mid and Ragan and Ryu try to defend but they lose their turret and trade AP for support. KT B follows up with an easy Baron. With Baron they pin down Azubu Blaze in their top lane until the mid inhib respawns, then they switch lanes and attack. Ragan gets MF quite low before Cpt. Jack can start his ult. He still gets it off but dies shortly afterwards. KT wins the teamfight and Blaze surrenders.
Like in the previous two games KaKAO had pinpoint play. He was exactly where he needed to be and secured First Blood with a nice gank. Few minutes afterwards KT B was winning every lane. Then Ryu waited in the jungle for Helios to get his red buff. Helios activates Ryu's trap card and gets destroyed by Ryu. At 20 minutes it is 3:1 towers for KT B. KT flanked Cpt. Jack and Lustboy in mid. Renekton comes in when the turret is nearly dead and dies. KT B is keeps up the pressure on Blaze and the result is a teamfight which is really close. After they stabilized Shy decided to chase with his low hp Renekton and gets killed, giving a Baron opportunity for KT B and they take it. Blaze tries to stop it but they are late which leads to a hard engage from KT B on Blaze. Blaze stands no chance against a KT B equipped with Baron Buff. Blaze surrenders.
We have seen a total different KT Rolster B from last week when they fought against Najin Sword. They showed their flawless play which we were used to from the group stages and they beat Blaze with their own tactic. In every game they showed early aggression which resulted in early towers which gave the team a global gold lead. Azubu Blaze looked shabby; maybe they could not practice enough with the travel to Poland. KT B saw the Blaze games in Poland and used Xin Zhao as effective as GG. First OGN tournament for KT B and already top 3 team. Overall it was a good season for the KT Rolster. Especially KaKAO convinced with his plays and would have deserved the 3rd game match MVP too. But Khazix just too strong.
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AZUBU FROST vs NAJIN SWORD: The Sword and the Spirit.
People often talk about two things when discussing the Korean League of Legends scene, especially this tournament, from a foreigner perspective: First, they usually mention the super high skill level. They say that the fierce nature of the Korean e-Sports system means that weaker players are squeezed out or forced to improve before they even make it to the amateur leagues, leaving top tier tournaments full of the absolute best of the best.
They are not wrong - To put it bluntly: to make it to the finals of OGN's Champion tournament, in this day and age, you have to be more than "good" at League of Legends. The level of competition is such that our two finalists: Azubu Frost and NaJin Sword, have not only superb individual mastery of their respective roles, but incredible teamwork, strategic sense, game knowledge, ability to research and understand their opponents, and a dash of luck.
Second, they also like to talk about the way this tournament has shaped and crafted the very "meta" that professional League competition revolves around. Lane Swaps, item builds, timings, etc. and again, they would be correct. In a time where teams worldwide struggled to adapt to the radical changes of Season 3, Korean teams and players in this tournament showed innovations and team compositions that would quickly become globally adopted. They made "bad" champions into "ban-worthy" ones and were declaring certain combinations obsolete just as they were hitting their stride across the ocean.
So if you are simply looking for the some of the highest level of League of Legends competition, with great teams playing their heart out for a whopping prize pool of near $75,000 for first place - you will undoubtedly find it in these finals. Rest easy - you will be entertained.
However. ... the skill ceiling will always rise. Prize pools will continue to grow. Patches will change the game, making the strategies shown here useless to emulate. If these finals were only memorable for their high level of play, they would hardly be memorable at all - shining only until the next major event rolls around and showcases something even higher.
Instead, I want to look at the human element at play here. These teams aren't just playing for money - they are playing for the legacy they have yet to write. League of Legends is a young game, but clearly has legs for a long future. When Starcraft was the same age, the players who won the tournament of this caliber (such the historic OSL Starleague) would go on to become legends and icons, the historic larger-than-life figures like Boxer, Garimto, and NaDa that would influence later generations to become pro gamers. It is not hard to imagine Maknoon or Madlife, with a win here, doing exactly that to some kid watching this match on February 2nd. To gamers like us, players like these become heroes in victory - using their talents at a game we love to achieve success in front of thousands of cheering fans.
It also deserves mentioning that the stars could not have aligned more perfectly for foreign fans than to see these two teams facing off in the finals. No other Korean teams, with the possible exception of Blaze, have had as much exposure to the foreign scene and our fanbase. We've seen the skills of Shy, Maknoon, Rapidstar, etc. firsthand - we've seen them celebrate success and recover from failure. Now we get to see them face off on their home turf, against equally matched opponents who came up in the same system - in front of TV coverage and thousands of screaming fans.
What I'm saying is that people who tune into this tournament finals are going to see more than skill - they will see heart, teamwork, and courage under extreme pressure. They will also see not just a winner but a champiom, and possibly - depending on future performance - a legend.
Now lets examine the teams:
THE CHAMPION: Azubu Frost
The title of “Best Team from Korea”, prior to these finals, is undoubtedly the colder side of the extremely successful Azubu duo of Blaze and Frost. They are the reigning champions of OGN going into this finals, the highest placing Korean team at the Season 2 World Championships (taking 2nd place behind TPA), They simply make up for any flaw with their results in an individual tournament with an extremely high level of consistency that allows them to keep coming back, going deep in a tournament and evolving and learning from their mistakes for the next one. Their history of success is one of their greatest assets going into this finals - having proven they can not only win this tournament but come back from a 0-2 deficit against CLG EU to do it, it will be hard for anything Najin does, even an early set win, to fluster them. If you want to talk stress - they have weathered that too, with Woong and their whole team getting negative fan reaction during the Season 2 World Championships for the screen-looking scandal against TSM, yet still managing to convincingly win their way to the finals.
These previous experiences have all been lessons, and for this match, they will have again learned a lesson from their performance against Gambit Gaming at IEM. Both Azubu teams relied heavily on the super powerful tanky initiators Olaf and Shen, as well as the lane dominance/team fight presence of Miss Fortune. Gambit, after some early stumbles, bounced back by banning all three of them out and playing to their own strengths, leaving Frost to fall back on simply weaker versions of their previous comp (substituting Singed/Jax for Olaf/Shen and going for cheesier Blitz-focused bot lanes that couldn't pin down Genja's Ezreal.
For this final I expect them to have more well-rounded backups should Najin get aggressive with their bans and for Woong to be able to play safer and more late game oriented for the games that come down to protect-the-carry situations, an area that Frost has sometimes struggled in when their bruiser-heavy destroy the enemy carry style has been out scaled (check out the amazing Blaze comeback against them in Game 4 of the semis for a perfect example)
THE CHALLENGER: NaJin Sword
In contrast to Azubu, Najin’s trophy case is decidedly A. Less Golden and B. Emptier. They have not taken first place in any paying event so far in their competitive history, but have achieved a close 2nd place to Blaze in the MLG Fall Championships and took 3rd in the last season of OGN Champions, losing to the former CLG EU in the semis. Unlike Frost however, the past doesn't really have much to do with the NaJin Sword we are seeing today. Abandoning their "Do Dive" style where they would pick aggressive early game heroes and come out of laning phase with enormous advantages, only to see it slip away to repeat tower dives and a better scaling/ more team fight oriented enemy composition, they have now fused their superior laning ability with a more conscious late game/farm oriented pick/ban phase and have seen enormous success almost immediately.
In their previous two games together (a surprisingly low number for two big name Korean teams to have played each other), Sword has lost to Frost both times almost the exact same way, falling apart in the end game after victory was so close just minutes earlier, but looking at those games in light of their recent adjustments to their late game paints Sword in a very positive light - they consistently showed laning success against Frost and should have little to fear pre-20 minutes from the Azubu lineup, which should translate into a much stronger lategame with their new pick/ban priorities.
The most important series to look at going into this one is their dominant performance against KT Rolster B, a team who looked absolutely untouchable during the early stages of the tournament only to go out with a surprising whimper against Sword. They came in with smart bans and were not dissuaded by Rolsters relentless banning of their mid laner's Evelynn and Kayle. Sword needs to keep up the confidence in their play that they showed here, and attempt to gain control of Amumu/Ryze, both champions that they used to great effect in the semis and with whom Frost also has excellent ability.
The title of this preview comes from a quote by Napoleon that says that of the two great forces in the world, the sword and the spirit, the latter will always end up victorious in the long run. I think, ironically because of their name, that Najin Sword in this case represents the "Spirit" that will overcome the well oiled Azubu machine. They have a hunger in their play to make up for the mistakes of the past, and are showing the kind of teamwork that allows them to overcome surprising picks or strategies that Frost may bring out.
Picture Source: Inven
My final prediction is 3-2 Najin Sword, with Maknoon taking home the MVP Award. Here's to some great games!
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By: Chexx, onlywonderboy, Moonbear, GTR
Every sport has its rivals. Federer and Nadal; Ali and Frazier. BoxeR and YellOw; Fantasy and Flash. The finals between Azubu and NaJin represents the continuation of another Korean rivalry. But it's more than just two teams who have faced off against each other clashing once more. It's a struggle of identities. And this finals will shape the identities of the two teams to come.
The two teams are a reflection of each other in through the looking glass. Both with sibling teams, both founded around the same time, and both favour tempo-control. PraY and Woong have slowly become far more comfortable in their roles as the AD Carry. Their solo lanes have found their own comfort zone and their preferred method to dictate the pace of the game. They each aspire to be different, yet develop and evolve in lock-step.
And now Azubu Frost attempt the defence of their title against their own reflection. At this level of play, there's little point in analysing prior games or performance. All that matters is the condition of teams when they sit down in their booths and put on their headphones. But perhaps fortune shall favour NaJin Sword. Ever since the beginning of the OnGameNet League, only three have ever mounted a successful defence of their title. They are BoxeR, Jaedong and JangBi. A champion for each of their races.
And it is unwise to ignore coincidences or superstition in eSports.
NaJin Sword 3 : 2 Azubu Frost
When two of the biggest titans in competitive LoL go head-to-head predicting a winner is never easy. As the defending champs, Azubu Frost has a lot on the line in terms of pride. During their semi-final performance they were able to take out their brother team Azubu Blaze, but it was far from a definitive victory. Blaze pushed Frost to the edge taking both BO5 matches to a 5th game. Najin Sword's road to the finals was much easier as they took out KT Rolster B 3-1 and 3-0. Although KT Rolster B wasn't playing up to their usual level, the ease at which Najin Sword was able to advance should give them a fair amount of confidence going into the finals. All eyes will be Top Lane as the Shy/Maknoon match-up could easily, single-handedly decide this match. Both teams have looked strong all season but I think Makoon and Co. are hungry for a victory and the confidence they gained from defeating KT Rolster B will carry them to victory.
NaJin Sword 3 : 2 Azubu Frost
We have two Top teams competing against each other, which are skillwise on the same level. Sword had time to study Azubu Frost at IEM Katowice. I am pretty sure that they watched the games between GG and Frost more than once. On the other hand Frost has way more experience in standing in a Final. They were in every OGN Final and in the world championship Final. They know the feeling to play in front of 6-7000 fans. If I take a look in the overall KDA Sword is ahead of Frost. Only Shy is better than his lane counterpart. It will be interesting to watch if we get the first title defense in korean LoL or if Sword finally manages to win their first major tournament.
My predicition is that we will see five close games but since the last game is blindpick and Frost has a flawless victory streak in blindpick. Frost will defend their title!
NaJin Sword 2 : 3 Azubu Frost
If you were to ask me before IEM Katowice who would prevail in the grand finals, I would have edged it to Sword winning in the death match. However, with Gambit Gaming dismantling both the Azubu teams in Poland, it is hard to give Frost a good chance of coming out with the victory this Saturday.
While Sword has been looking hot, dismantling the odds-on favourite KT Rolster B in the semi-final, Frost fought tooth and nail against Blaze in their semi-final, while looking completely lost against a motivated Gambit Gaming at IEM. Although it could be possible that Frost were simply just hiding strategies for the grand final, the loss to Gambit Gaming shows that Frost aren't looking at their best right now.
Sword will also have the luxury of IEM tape to study on Frost. No doubt we will either see Xin Zhao banned by Frost, or MakNooN/Watch playing him whenever given the chance. The drafting process will be pivotal in this series, as Sword won against KT Rolster B on their draft choices alone.
With all of that being said, this is Frost's chance to prove their IEM loss was a fluke and assert itself as the top team in Korea. For Sword, this is their prime opportunity to take home their first major championship after losing out at MLG in Dallas to Azubu Blaze last year.
NaJin Sword 3 : 0 Azubu Frost
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