Photo: Daily eSports (데일리e스포츠)
Welcome back to the Teamliquid Writeup about OGN. We have a new addition for the KR/OGN team Frost is doing translations of the KR Scene and Interviews. Check it out if you want to gather more information about the Korean League of Legends scence.
In this writeup we combine Week three and four with the preview of the KO rounds. I hope you enjoy it and visit us on Teamliquid to join our discussion about Pokemon, NA & EU LCS and of course OGN The Champions!
Table of Contents
Review of Week 3 & 4
Match of Week 3
The Broken Sword
The Chobra Awards
CJ Entus Blaze vs. KT Rolster B
CJ Entus Frost vs. Najin White Shield
Week Three and Four Summary
By: GTR & Chexx
The week of 1:1's
Wow. In what was the penultimate week of group stage matches, who would have thought that no one would take three points home in their group? Let's have a look at some of the defining moments of each play day.
Xenics Blast 1:1 Xenics Storm
Unfortunate timing for this tournament's first team-kill as any result besides a 2-0 for Blast would result in both Xenics teams being eliminated from the knock-out stage of this seasons tournament. The first match was a bit of a disappointment as the new flavor of the month, double AD carry team composition from Storm was misplayed, allowing Blast time to stack anti-physical items and subsequently the game.
The second match on the other hand was intense from the get-go, with four towers being taken down in the space of five minutes. Without a doubt, 'Crazy' Ragan of Xenics Storm's Teleport Ryze was the star of the match. Despite ManyReason having Twisted Fate, his global presence was no match for Ragan's. Storm learned from their previous mistakes in the first game and fixed many of their lane rotation problems that plagued them earlier.
CJ Blaze 1:1 Najin Black Sword
In one of the most critical matches of the group stages, Sword were desperate for three points after going even with CTU in their previous match. After looking very sloppy in their opening match, many were doubting Sword's ability to take a set off the previous season's finalist. The first set was pretty much determined from the start, where Ambition gave up first blood to a sneaky Pray on Twitch during the level one roaming stage. Taking a page from MVP Ozone using Yorick in the top lane, a series of positional errors from Cpt Jack would eventually snowball into a victory for Sword.
The second match was uncharacteristically sloppy from Blaze, with Helios and Lustboy being picked off numerous times while warding. Flame's consistency with his top-lane Kennen throughout the set would eventually be rewarded when a fight in the blue side jungle allowed him to get off a game-winning Slicing Maelstrom engage. A critical error on Sword's behalf was Watch's refusal to build an Aegis until the very late stages of the match, leading into terrible, terrible damage from Flame.
LG-IM #2 1:1 MVP Blue
With both of these teams scraping the bottom of the barrel in their group, a straight-out victory would have allowed either team to catch up to SKT T1 and assert their position in the top two. However, both of them were to come away with a single point, leaving the group wide open for that second spot out of the groups. There isn't much to say about these two games except if you want your share of Korea's version of NA LCS, watch game 2.
CJ Frost 1:1 KT Bullets
Without a doubt, this was the match of the week. KT Bullets established a train of haters after their alleged bracket manipulation throw last season, and with Frost wanting to beat them up in a straight-up game, the stakes couldn't have been higher. In addition, inSec was out to prove he could hang out with the big boys of the top lane. Shy was his first challenger.
The Bullets pulled out the first surprise of the series, opting to go for inSec on Malphite and Ryu on Orianna, hoping for a wombo combo with their ultimates in order to combat Frost's bread and butter split push composition. inSec was lucky to catch Frost off-guard several times, allowing the Bullets to roll away with the first match.
The second game was most noteworthy for arguably the best player in the world, MadLife, pulling out his much revered Alistar. After a shaky laning phase, a series of impeccable plays from MadLife helped feed Space's Twitch into the hyper carry that Frost needed. By the end, it was all too much for the Bullets to handle, forcing them to concede the game.
Xenics Storm 1:1 MVP Ozone
Xenics Storm were mathematically out, while MVP Ozone were mathematically in, so this match meant nothing in terms of group standings. Despite running a pocket jungle Yorick in the first game, Storm were no match for imp's trademark Vayne. The second match saw Ozone take a gear down, and with some notably lackadaisical play, saw Storm prevail in the second match, with their team composition revolved around the flavor of the month double AD composition.
Jin Air Stealths 1:1 Najin Sword
There were no winners in this match, literally. The Jin Air Stealths, after being crushed and humiliated in front of their new sponsors last week, were desperate to notch at least one set win, while Najin Sword had to win straight out in order to have a chance of qualifying for the knockout stage this season - along with the chance of solidifying a top two place in this season's circuit points.
Bringing out one of Maknoon's trademark champions of their Winter championship season, Rumble, Expession and company completely misplayed their team composition, losing every dragon fight the two teams engaged on. The Stealths would take advantage of their poor play and take the set.
With their hopes and dreams for this season shattered, Sword managed to get themselves together for the meaningless second set, where they, after a period of evenness, managed to take the victory.
With the group stage of Champions Summer coming to an end, many hopes, dreams and expectations have been crushed under the merciless foot that is Korean League of Legends. In a top-level tournament where every team is playing at their limit, every change from something as small as a numbers nerf on Elise to a restructuring of the jungle can be the reason for advancing or dropping out of the competition. Until last week, the fate of even top teams like CJ Entus Frost was up in the air, but that has come to a close with the conclusion of the group stage matches.
On Wednesday, MVP Blue needed a win against Faker & Co. to get the ticket to the round of 8. However SK Telecom T1 left them no chance and achieved a perfect group score with three clean victories. The second game of the night was KT Bullets playing against LG-IM #1, with the former throwing a curveball by allowing inSec to rest while substituting ssumday in the top lane. This likely threw off LG-IM in the first game, who were accustomed to watching inSec’s more defensive, team-oriented style. However, Paragon and his teammates played one of their best games in recent history as they completely denied the return of the Scorki in game 2. The tie left KTB’s fate in the hands of MiG Blitz and CJ Entus Frost to determine the two teams that would advance to the playoffs.
SKT T1 2:0 MVP Blue
KT Rolster B 1:1 LG-IM #2
Friday night brought us Jin Air Falcons against Xenics Blast and CJ Entus Blaze against Chunnam Techno University. The Falcons were able to secure a 2:0 victory over Xenics Blast and performed well to prove to their sponsors that they were not making a mistake in signing Eat Sleep Game. The winner of Blaze vs CTU would advance as first place while the loser would take second. They split the series which led to a tiebreaker game on the following Wednesday, which Blaze won in dominating fashion.
Jin Air Falcons 2:0 Xenics Blast
CJ Entus Blaze 1:1 CTU
Saturday started with LG-IM #2 playing against Najin White Shield, where NoFe gave a refreshing performance in the jungle to sweep the series. Shield took charge of their fate to qualify for the next round in second place, behind the undefeated SK Telecom. The last game of the week and the group stage was the long awaited match between Woong’s former and current teams, CJ Entus Frost and MiG Blitz. Many fans came to the studio to watch this match between the teams who shared such a connection. But Frost, especially MadLife, showed Blitz that they are still one step ahead of the competition. Blitz brought out some interesting ideas and tactics, thanks to the brain of Woong, but Frost’s extensive experience gave them the edge in the duel.
LG-IM #2 0:2 Najin White Shield
CJ Entus Frost 2:0 MiG Blitz
Match of Week 3
MATCH OF THE WEEK ANALYSIS
CJ Frost vs. KT Bullets
CJ Frost vs. KT Bullets
I was really at a loss over which game I wanted to analyze in this absolutely phenomenal series between CJ Frost and KT Bullets, but after rewatching them both it became clear to me that while the plays by CJ Frost in Game 2 were amazing - please check out this breakdown of Madlife's excellent Alistar decisions here - and definitely allowed Frost to win the game tactically, KT Bullets crushed the first game of the series in an entirely different manner: strategically. At almost no point during that game could you say that a Bullets player "outplayed" their Frost counterpart; in fact at many points Frost was able to turn around really bad situations (a 3v2 gank at bot lane which they somehow turned into a first blood for no deaths, entering teamfights with a large gold disadvantage yet still managing to pick up even kills, etc.), yet despite all of that KT Bullets won rather convincingly because of one of the most excellently played drafting phases and strategic item choices I've seen thus far in OGN. Lets get into breaking it down:
Image Courtesy of Leaguepedia
I've taken the liberty of placing a gold star next to champions that I consider, statistically, to be top tier godly champions for the Korean meta this season of OGN, largely by looking at either abnormally high win rates (Nami, for example, has an 80% win rate with over 16 games being picked!) or hugely contested pick/ban rates (Jayce, as we all know, has never not been picked/banned in an OGN game thus far).
Laid out in this manner, you can already see that KT Bullets has come out somewhat ahead - not a single one of their champions isn't a top tier pick, save for Malphite (who will go in-depth on in just a second), and, more importantly, they have picked all of their champions into situations that cover whatever weaknesses they might have had. Vayne, for example, is the most contested AD Carry in Korea at this point due to her insane mid and late games, but certain lanes can punish her early - Caitlyn, for example. By picking Vayne after Ezreal they knew exactly what they were getting into and clearly felt that lane would beat least even for the early game. The only other possible weak point during laning was Malphite, and they handled that so well it deserves its own paragraph:
Malphite: a Rock Solid Choice
For anyone who didn't watch Flame and Shy break down the top lane in this awesome "LoL: Summer Lesson" video, they had a great section where they talked about the strengths and weaknesses of so-called "herbivore" top laners - things like Nasus, Malphite, Shen, Zac, etc. who loved to just farm it out the top lane and be tanky initiators for their team later on. While they agreed that these choices could be very useful to a team, even if they are unable to really put out a lot of pressure on their lanes, they really had to be wary of counter-herbivores. A pick like Chogath or Vladimir for example, can completely shut down a Malphite/Shen in lane AND be an unstoppable team fight monster later, getting the best of both worlds because of a strong counterpick. While picking the Malphite after Shen isn't exactly on that level of lane dominance, it follows a very similar principle - Malphite with a chalice -> sunfire build will not only feel 0 pressure from a Shen in lane, but can output enough magic damage early on so as to slow down Shen's building of his core pushing/teamfight items (sunfire, randuins, etc.) while he builds magic resist stopgaps like spirit visage and merc treads.
With Malphite they got a nearly unlose-able top lane, an amazing teamfight combo (through his coordination with Orianna) and - most importantly - a ticking time bomb. As Montecristo mentions during the cast, with pretty much all of CJ Frost's damage coming from AD sources (one of whom - Ezreal - generally uses a variation of the blue build, making him the least effective tank-buster out of all AD carries), there will eventually be a point when a full item Malphite becomes an unkillable monster tank that can initiate with no fear at any point. How did they ensure their opponents would have a full AD team?
The Jayce Gambit
By leaving Jayce open of course! With the Korean meta being what it is, there was no way that an open Jayce pick would not - eventually - be snatched up by the CJ Frost if Bullets left it open long enough. However, it may interest you to know that despite a 100% pick/ban rate in OGN Summer thus far, Jayce has actually not won a single game for any team that has managed to pick him, going a combined 0-3. Observing those games, as well as this one, tells a pretty clear story: Teams are not forgetting about Jayce. If they leave Jayce open, it wasn't because someone just missed the memo on OP's in the Korean meta - they are fully aware and planning on you picking that champion, so do not rush into it unless you are absolutely sure its advantages outweigh the costs.
Overall, the biggest mistakes that Frost made in this draft were:
#1 Wasting their bans on champions they were simply scared of (Ahri and to a lesser extent Lee Sin, though the latter could be justified with how weak Cloudtemplar's style is against it) instead of on champions that have no weaknesses (basically everything else Bullets picked)
#2 Wasting very important early picks on comfortable/safe choices like Shen and Ezreal (had they instantly grabbed Jayce the second he was available instead of playing wait-and-see with Bullet's composition, they could have easily shored up the rest of their lineup - think for example, a Singed top instead of a Shen - to allow Jayce to really shine)
#3 Cloudtemplar's "herbivore" jungler style is still putting Frost in uncomfortable situations, especially now that the hyper aggressive doran's blade start super duelist junglers are coming to the forefront (notice even Elise got a doran's blade this game!)
The second strategic nail in the coffin for Frost was how well KT Bullets itemized against them:
Ryu had a super smart Orianna build that circumvented the usual chalice -> athene's build path that most Oriannas take (but is very weak against strong AD mids). For the same price of Athene's unholy grail (2600g), he created his own makeshift anti-AD version with a Tear of the Goddess for mana (700g), a haunting guise for improved spell damage (1485g) and a cloth armor (300g) for armor defense. This kept him safe from Jayce all-ins and allowed him to farm safely - with an added bonus of building better into the late game as the cloth armor turned into a Zhonyas Hourglass and the tear into a Seraphs' Embrace.
Kakao, as mentioned earlier, went with a generally standard jungle build with the addition of a doran's blade, which has been picking up popularity in Korea lately. This allowed him to consistently assert himself in the jungle, outduel cloudtemplar in small skirmishes, and maintain a CS lead over Zac the entire game.
Finally, Insec's item build deserves mention because it was so perfectly built at each stage of the game. At the start he rushed chalice and a lot of potions to assert himself in lane, solve his mana problems, and force Shen into MR. Then he immediately transitioned into exactly the hyper efficient anti-AD tank items that made him unstoppable vs. Frost's composition (Warmogs, Randuins, Sunfire), and once he got those he went an interesting route to pick up a Mikhail's Crucible off of his initial chalice of harmony to make sure no surprise CC could prevent his carries from doing damage behind him.
On Frost's side, it's worth noting Ganked by mom's interesting Jayce build. It really seems like a cry for more auto attack damage and kiting ability to try and put anything onto Bullet's tanks. Generally a Jayce will build raw AD items like bloodthirster in those slots to maximize his E-Q poke, but as that would just glance off of Malphite, he made an interesting improvisation that didnt really work out.
KT Bullets created a situation where they covered every single one of their early game weaknesses, put a guaranteed late game victory/heavy advantage on the clock, and gave themselves multiple opportunities to force their opponents into bad situations in the mid game - and they did all this before the game even began.
I loved this series of games and I recommend watching both of the games to see Frost's excellent response in Game 2 (which actually takes Bullet's comp here and puts a great spin on it, as well as just showing some amazing tactical plays from Madlife and Space). Heres hoping both of these teams can make it farther in Champions Summer, as they clearly have a lot to show us!
The Broken Sword
Though the upcoming quarter-final round of Champions Summer is the current point of discussion, the biggest story of Summer's group stage is undoubtedly Najin Black Sword's shock elimination from the tournament at the hands of the Jin Air Stealths. Prior to Champions Summer, the reformed Najin Sword was touted as the team to win after their first place finish in the NLB as well as the transfer of long-suffering top laner Expession to fill the void left by MaKNooN. Yet, for the first time in history, Najin's marquee team has fallen short of their sister team's performance.
When Expession's men fell in their first game against Jin Air, the atmosphere in the Najin booth turned dark as the team grappled with the fact that not only were they out of Champions Summer, but that their road to the Season 3 trophy was suddenly filled with obstacles in other high-performing Korean teams. HooN finally had his good day, but at the cost of Najin Black Sword's season and possibly their lifeline in international competition.
The gravity of this surprise elimination cannot be understated - for the first time in months, Najin Sword looked like they had the recipe for success. The criminally underrated Expession joined forces with a seasoned team that was searching for the perfect glue for their cracked teamwork. Expession would finally have a real chance at glory, while the other Swordsmen looked to be the first team to achieve the title of Champions twice.
Watch catatonic after his loss to Jin Air
It is difficult to claim that Najin Black Sword performed poorly this season. All three of their matches were 1:1 ties, but when those matches include one against a team regarded as weak (and indeed, one that fell 0:2 to the other two teams in the group), doubts arise as to the strength and stability of a once-great team. Najin Black Sword is the season's greatest disappointment thus far, eclipsing that of the return of Xenics to Champions. However, the team still has its opportunity to reclaim glory. On top of playing in the NLB, Najin Black Sword will have a chance at being one of three Korean teams attending Riot's Season 3 World Championship.
Najin Black Sword turn their eyes to the future, though there are few lessons to be gleaned from the past. Never before has a Korean team of such stature failed in the same manner. Coach Reach's guidance will be of vital importance in this tentative period for the team as they enter uncharted waters. For the sake of their fans, and the team themselves, Najin must make history again as they attempt one of the most ambitious comebacks of League of Legends history, and as they attempt to repair a broken sword.
The Chobra Awards
With the playoffs on the horizon, it's time to honor the good, the bad and the ugly of the summer regular season. With one of the biggest Champions seasons ever, pitting the top sixteen Korean teams against each other for the sought after throne and a spot at the World Championships, we've seen some amazing highs and abysmal, horrifying lows. So, if you're a Champions fanatic who watches every night or just getting into the Korean scene, Liquid has you covered with the inaugural Chobra Awards, recognizing the players and teams that have made Champions Summer an enjoyable, wild ride so far.
I wonder how fangirls explain "I <3 Ganked By Mom" signs to their parents - Photo by Leaguepedia
The Rookie of the Season Award
Winner: Ganked By mom
Runner(s)-up: Riris, Zefa, Ggoong
Winner: Ganked By mom
Runner(s)-up: Riris, Zefa, Ggoong
When it was announced that a player under the ID "Ganked by mom" had been signed as the substitute Mid player for CJ Entus Frost, most people giggled at the name, commented on his bleached hair, and wondered whether he'd even be seen if Frost had an easy time in the group stages. In a surprise, Rapidstar went on vacation, Ganked by mom was the starting Mid Laner on Frost's opening night roster, and he wowed the crowd with his dominating Orianna play against LG-IM #1. Having a signature champion that is appreciated by the crowd is an honor for any player to receive, but GBM had accomplished that feat in only one night of playing, with every team after his destruction of LG-IM #1 taking note of his play on the robotic girl champion.
Outside of GBM, the race for Rookie of the Season seemed to be going towards the ADC player of CTU, Riris, but the university player couldn't keep his hot streak going at the end of the season, putting in a disastrous performance against CJ Entus Blaze in the tiebreaker match that would have gotten them tops in the group. Zefa, White Shield's new ADC -- replacing the popular Locodoco -- finished the regular season with the highest KDA at 14.3, only dying three times all group stage, but the stats are skewed due to him playing in only four games in the regular season and sitting out during the match against SK Telecom T1, by far the toughest team in the group. Rounding things off, Ggoong, the former Brood War player known as Grape from Samsung Khan, also had a strong rookie season, coming into the Mid Lane role, playing all six games in the group stages, and finishing with a stellar 4.5 KDA.
The Ruler of the Top Lane Award
Runner(s)-up: Flame and Insec
Runner(s)-up: Flame and Insec
After a stagnated spring season where he dropped off from being Korea's most dominate Top Laner, letting his friend and practice partner Flame take all the accolades and praise for his almost perfect season, Shy has returned with a vengeance in the summer, helping CJ Entus Frost take first place in the most highly contested group in the regular season and beat out KT Rolster Bullets once again for top spot in the pool stage. Showing his versatility as a Top Laner, Shy -- while not being the #1 option picking up all the kills for the team -- has assisted every single player on Frost with his farming, reliability in lane, and lack of being ganked in the top lane. Finishing the regular season with the least amount of deaths on his team with seven, Shy's KDA blew away the rest of the competition with a stunning 9.3 score. Even without the statistics and almost immortality Shy has been playing under this season, it's hard to argue that Shy hasn't been playing at the top of his game, directing his team to being possibly the favorites to win the entire tournament.
Flame and Insec have also been huge contributors to their teams, posting 6.6 and 6.4 KDA's respectively, but Blaze have looked completely mortal this season with their single, unoriginal split push strategy that solely relies on the other team not being able to stop Flame from farming and winning his lane, and Insec only played in four of the Bullets six games, letting ssumday get some playing time during the group stages.
Dandy could not contain his excitement after hearing about his Chobra award - Photo by http://www.inven.co.kr
The King of the Jungle Award
Runner(s)-up: Kakao, Bengi, NoFe
Runner(s)-up: Kakao, Bengi, NoFe
When Kakao returned to the KT Bullets from his hellish season on the Arrows and Insec announced he was moving to the top lane, the title of best Jungler in Korea suddenly became wide open. A sea, of very good, but not great -- compared to the other positions in Korea -- Junglers emerged, wanting to take the title for themselves. With Reapered moving to the jungle, the aggressive NoFe taking on a more frontal role on White Shield, and last season's KDA winner Bengi all wanting to become the new King of the Jungle, it has been the reigning and defending champion's Jungler, Dandy, who has been the star this season, helping Ozone continue their dominance from where they left offf against Blaze in the finals and look even stronger this season.
While his stats might trail Kakao, Ozone left of the gas pedal during the final games of the group stages, already having locked up first place in the group and easing into the playoffs with a sloppy series against Xenics Blast. The stars of the team might still be imp and Mata in the bottom and dade in the middle, but Dandy has put himself in a position to call himself the best Jungler in not only Korea, but the world if he can continue on his upward rise in the playoffs.
The Maestro of the Mid Lane Award
In what looked to be a three man race entering the season between dade (Spring MVP), Ambition (Korea's All Star) and Faker (Spring's Rookie of the Season), has now turned into a direct contest between two, Blaze's Ambition having possibly the worst season of his career, leading his team in deaths and lowest KDA -- even surpassing the now benched CptJack's. For the other two, dade and Faker, they've both led their teams to first place in their groups, SKT T1 not dropping a single game in the group stages, and Ozone having just as easy of a time, some of the games looking more like they were playing with their food than actually giving it their all.
Between the two, Faker leads in kills, always being the #1 or #2 option on his team along with Piglet, but dade has had the better overall season with assisting seventeen more times than Faker and dying less. While Faker is almost always depended on to be one of the two main carries on his team, dade can play in almost any sort of situation, being able to carry when needed -- like in the finals against Blaze -- or play more of a set-up man type role, letting Dandy and imp pick up all the kills and be a facilitator for his teammates. Even Faker has admitted that while he sees dade as his main competition, that the MVP Ozone Mid Laner is currently better than him in almost every facet of the game. With both teams as big favorites in their quarterfinal match-ups, we might actually see the two best Mid Laners in the world face off in the semifinals, battling for a spot in the Grand Final.
Piglet is not amused by your Winnie the Pooh puns - Photo by http://www.inven.co.kr
The God of ADC Award
Runner(s)-up: imp, Zefa, Space
Runner(s)-up: imp, Zefa, Space
Piglet!? Yeah, Piglet. With all the talk on imp after being at the front of Ozone's Cinderella run to the championship last season, Piglet has gone under the radar and finished with one of the best regular seasons for an ADC in Champions history, only dying nine times, winning all six games in the group stages and finishing with a remarkable 9.9 KDA. SKT, who fell into a trap of needing Faker to do well or they were almost assuredly going to lose, has changed up their style in the summer season, Piglet now being strong enough mechanically to pick up the slack if Faker has an off game. Being the only team in the group stage to go undefeated, Piglet could be singled out as the main reason SKT went undefeated in the group stage, going from an up-and-coming rookie last season to being one of the top ADC's in Korea in his sophomore campaign. Taking the title as the best Caitlyn player in Korea, Piglet is on his way to becoming a superstar like imp did last season with a strong performance in the playoff rounds.
Trailing him, we of course have imp, having a decent, but not amazing season like many expected, not really needing to carry Ozone like he used to with Dandy and dade coming into their own and having claim to being the best at their positions currently in Korea. Space, who went from Frost substitute to starter, has also had a very strong season, holding a 9.3 KDA, and creating a partnership with Madlife that has wiped away the tears from the Frost fans after the train wreck that was Hermes and Madlife last season in the knockout rounds. A exciting, uber aggressive player, Space has gone from the bench to being one of the most talked about players in this season's Champions.
The Madlife Memorial Support Award
Madlife is the most legendary player in Korean League of Legends history. In ten years, when we're looking back at the history of League of Legends, fans will look at Madlife the same way that Brood War fans look at Boxer today. He's so good that I have no other choice but to name the Support award after him. From his early days partnering with Locodoco to his dynamite duo with Space today, Madlife has consistently been the God of League of Legends, making plays that normal players couldn't duplicate even after years of playing.
Still, for the first time since Champions began -- I feel like Madlife finally has competition for the best Support in Korea. Mata, who came out of nowhere last season to become one of the premiere Support players in Korea, has continued to get better and better each time we see him, a relative rookie in the Korean scene when compared to most of the players in Champions. When you compare their numbers, on champions they've played in five or more games with, Madlife has five champions with more than a 66% win rate (Sona, Thresh, Allistar, Blitzcrank and Taric) in his career and Mata -- with less than half the games Madlife has played in his career -- has four (Sona, Thresh, Zyra and Fiddlesticks). All-time, the numbers are even closer, Madlife having a career 5.6 KDA on CJ Entus Frost, and Mata coming in with a 5.3 KDA on Ozone.
While Support is one of the deepest positions in Korea, having world class Support after world class Support, these two are in a level all by themselves. At the moment, I give the slightest, tiniest of edges to Mata, coming off his Champions season and following up with another strong season on Ozone, going 5-1 in the group stages. When it comes to getting vision on the map, setting up team fights, and protecting their ADC, these are the two best in the world, and with how both of their teams are currently playing, a clash between the two Gods of Support might finally take place on the grandest of stages at the Summer finals.
Agony's name is LongPanda
The Agony, Sadness and Despair in the Top Lane Award sponsored by LongPanda
Want to know why LongPanda is the most cursed and agonized player in League of Legends history? From his former team, CJ Entus, alongside with Insec, dade, Muse and Space. All four are not only still in Champions, but their new teams have a combined record of 19-6 in Champions Summer, each of his former teammates making it into the knockout rounds of the tournament for the second season in a row. It wasn't just that LongPanda was the weakest link of his team, but that every player that he used to play with on the original CJ Entus have all gone on to play for elite teams. Insec became the all-star of the Korean team, dade won the Champions Spring MVP award, and Space created a partnership with the most popular player in Korea.
When it comes to who deserves the LongPanda award this season, the easy answer would be Smeb. He finished with an awful KDA of 1.3, was constantly picked on in lane, and couldn't keep up for most of the season. The thing is, what did anyone expect? LG-IM #1, top to bottom, was simply a bad team compared to the rest of the teams in Champions, and Smeb -- while not a strong Top Lane player -- was not the main reason why LG-IM #1 was so bad and eventually got knocked out of the tournament with a single victory.
The award could only go to one person -- that being Expession of the new Najin Black Sword. Not only did Expession come in with great expectations, a lot of his peers and journalists predicting him to lead Black Sword to a championship and pick up the MVP award, but he couldn't even get Sword into the playoffs. Sword, who had never missed the knockout rounds in their history, had "upgraded" from Maknoon to Expession and ended with their worst season. Making things worse, Expession's old team, White Shield, seemed to have new life with Save as their Top Lane, going on to make the playoffs and have one of their better group stages in team history.
Mechanically, Expession is a top tier player of superb skill, but he simply has had constant disappointment. In his Champions career, he has never gone past the quarterfinal stage in his five seasons. With an overall record in Champions of 13-20, Expession has only gotten out of the group stages once in his five seasons, usually bombing out before the knockout rounds begin. When we're talking about never ending agony and despair, the Top Lane of Black Sword is the player who fits the definition to a tee. Hopefully, if Sword makes the World Championship, he can turn things around outside of Korea and finally have his moment in the sun, but before we start comparing Expession to the Flame's and Shy's of the world, maybe we should wait until he can get a winning record on a team.
A Wolf in new clothing can change everything - Photo by http://www.inven.co.kr
The Most Improved Player Award
Runner(s)-up: Mima, CloudTemplar
Runner(s)-up: Mima, CloudTemplar
When it was announced that Najin White Shield was going to go through a full rebuilding process, with Expession going to Black Sword and their former bot lane of Wolf/Locodoco splitting time with the newcomers Gorilla/Zefa, not many people were surprised by the lackluster performance that the former White Shield bot lane put on in the knockout round last season against SK Telecom T1. Locodoco stayed on the team, but Wolf decided he needed a change of scenery and wanted to start full-time. Wolf moved over to the upstart CTU team that was doing well in NLB and had a good shot of making it into the expanded Champions season. Mima, another misfit toy from the former MVP White squad, also joined up with the university team, the two players trying to change their careers on a new team.
Wolf, before joining CTU, was most known for being the player that Faker styled on during Champions Spring, getting hit by a blind Jayce shock blast and then looking unamused at his death. Since moving to CTU, he has become one of the better Support players in Korea, forming a strong partnership with the rookie supernova Riris in the bottom lane, the two being a main reason why they were able to knock off Sword and beat them out for the final playoff spot in Group B. While his champion pool still needs to go beyond simply Thresh, Sona, and Nami -- CJ Entus Blaze banning all three and forcing Wolf to play Blitzcrank in the tiebreaker match for first place in Group B -- Wolf has transformed himself from a player heading straight to the bench to a core member of a playoff team.
Not to be overlooked, Mima has also had a resurgence on his new team, having a KDA a full point higher on CTU than his time on MVP White. With his signature Gragas play, he has been able to hold his own with the other top Mid Lane players in Korea, even outplaying Ambition on Gragas in their final match against Blaze in the tiebreaker. Finally, let us all give a cheer for CloudTemplar, a player that many thought might retire due to the fact he was "falling behind" the rest of the Junglers in Korea and possibly having weaker mechanics, but he has been a rock all season long, going from a shoddy 2.8 KDA during Champions Spring to an above average 5.7 KDA this tournament.
The "Stop I! They're Already Dead!" Biggest Stomp Award
Winner: MVP Ozone (vs. Jin Air Falcons G2)
Runner(s)-up: CJ Entus Frost (vs. LG-IM #1 G2)
Winner: MVP Ozone (vs. Jin Air Falcons G2)
Runner(s)-up: CJ Entus Frost (vs. LG-IM #1 G2)
In a close contest between the two biggest blowouts of the year, we have to get the "Stop It! They're Already Dead!" Award to MVP Ozone for the circumstances in which they stomped in. With Eat Sleep Game, formerly of the SK Telecom T1 organization, announcing that they had been picked up by Jin Air as KeSPA's newest team, there was a new hype surrounding the team. Surrounded by people from the Jin Air company showing up for the debuts of their team new teams, all eyes were on to see the premiere team between the two, Falcons, put on a good show against the defending champions for the people that had just signed them.
Instead of getting see Reapered lead his team to a victory or even a tightly contested battle between the current kings of Korea, they were treated to one of the most lopsided beatdowns in Champions history. Raven, the Falcons sophomore ADC, ended with a 0/7/1 scoreline, plummeting his season's KDA in a single game. They were able to pick up a single kill off of dade at the end of the game, Ozone pushing into the Falcons base without a care in the world, but that was the only salvation for a team that had just gotten embarrassed on live television in front of their new sponsors. Expected to be a stronger team than they were a season ago when they got blanked by Blaze in the quarterfinals, Ozone handed the newly rebranded Falcons a slice of cold, hard reality in which they demonstrated the difference in skill between a world championship caliber team and a mid-table Korean squad.
Reapered and Friends need to turn it around if they want to do well in the playoffs - Photo by http://www.inven.co.kr
The Least Valuable Player Award
Runner(s)-up: MidKing, Quality
Runner(s)-up: MidKing, Quality
If the question for this award was who the worst player in Champions Summer was, it would probably to MidKing from LG-IM #1, having a Titanic-like season, reverting from a formidable Mid Lane player to being a laughingstock to the crowd every time they showed his KDA on screen. But, for all of MidKing's mishaps, deaths, and downright awful plays throughout the season, as we've talked about before, LG-IM #1, from top to bottom, was a complete mess this season, pretty much doing as terribly as most people expected them to when they found out Lasha, their star Support player, was out for the season due to illness.
AD Carry, while always talked about as the weakest position when it comes to Korean scene, has started to pick up with players like imp, Pray and Piglet coming in and approaching the level where the Korean Support players have been for the past year. The meta is slowly shifting to where if you don't have an AD Carry that can at least be a solid #2 option when called upon, your team is more than likely not going to get any farther than the quarterfinals. With that being said, we have to talk about Raven, the only AD Carry from all the teams who made it to the quarterfinals to have more deaths than kills throughout the regular season.
The Jin Air Falcons did make the quarterfinals, but they're not going to get anywhere close to their former sister team SK Telecom T1 if Raven cannot turn it around. With a lowly KDA of 2 throughout the regular season, one of his best performances in the group stages wasn't even playing the ADC role, it was when the Falcons had already qualified for the playoffs and decided to role swap for the final game against Xenics Blast, allowing Raven to go into the mid lane on Zed. There is obvious potential with Raven, slowing glimpses of talent here and there, but with how flat he played in the regular season, any team going up against the Jin Air Falcons only really need to plan for Reapered, shut down their captain, and sail to victory -- not having to worry about any of the other players on the team to carry.
WARNING! This picture has been the cause of twelve pregnancies in South Korea
The "Even My Thirteen-Year-Old Daughter Doesn't Wear That Much Eyeliner" Makeup Award
Runner(s)-up: No one comes close
When you're twenty-years-old, heralded as one of the best players in the most popular e-sport in the world, and have a gaggle of girls flocking you every time you enter a room, you are allowed to wear more eyeliner than a teenage girl and pull it off while doing so. When it comes to Korean e-sports and makeup, it's a marriage that has been going on for almost a decade, with OGN having their own makeup to work on the teenage players before they are shown on national television playing their craft. Flame, though, has gone to another level, proving that there is no such thing as too much eyeliner, wearing it prominently during promotional videos and interviews.
So, for his commitment to eyeliner and making fangirls scream their heads off whenever he appears on camera, we salute you Flame. Keep up the good work and we don't see any other challengers to your Chobra award in the near future.
We can't tell if this is in style in South Korea or if OGN is just screwing with them
The Summer Style Award
Winner: The Rainbros (MonteChristo, Doa and Chobra)
Runner(s)-up: KT Rolster Bullets, Jin Air Falcons/Stealths
As with our last award, looking good and being stylish is pretty important in Korean e-sports, and with the changing of the seasons from spring to summer, we've seen a lot of uniform changes this season. SK Telecom T1 dropped their red uniforms for bland plain white tee shirts, the KT Rolster Bullets changed from their white/gold uniforms to solid black jerseys, and CJ Entus decided that wearing cardigans in the summer probably wasn't the best idea, dropping their jacket attire. Also, with their new sponsorship with Jin Air, the newly named Falcons and Stealths were given new jerseys, the four core members wearing a white uniform with the green logo on the breast, and the captain of each team wearing a dark green pilot jacket to show their captaincy on the team.
During most seasons, we would have given the style award to the Jin Air teams, but not this season. With every new season, OGN changed out the wardrobe selection for the English casters, putting them in more lavish suits than the last. This season was no exception, OGN going all out and putting their English commentators in something that looked to come from an old series of Doctor Who, putting the casters in flamboyant and colorful rainbow uniforms. While usually the caster suits can range from unseemly to something even a blind person wouldn't wear, this season OGN decided to go out all with the suits. Not only do we applaud OGN for their choice in outrageous costumes, but to the winners of the award, the Rainbros, who not only pulled off the crazy outfits, but made them their own during the season.
The question now is how is OGN going to top themselves for next season? What could possibly be more crazy than having your commentators dress up like an advert for Skittles? Maybe they can go to Flame for some advice.
No one will ever catch CptJack Sparrow on bench! Genius! - Photo by http://www.inven.co.kr
The Shrine of Elementz Bench Award
Runner(s)-up: Locodoco, Flahm
Runner(s)-up: Locodoco, Flahm
With our final award, we would like to honor the players who lost their starting jobs this season. Locodoco, the widely outspoken and once partner of Madlife, was moved to a sub position, Zefa coming in for four of the six games this season and leading all ADC's in KDA in the games he played. Flahm, the Support player of MVP Blue, who had gotten rave reviews for his Thresh play during last season's regular season, had a falling off, getting replaced at the end of the season when the games were most important.
Despite both Loco and Flahm having a claim for the Shrine of Elementz Bench Award, we have to give it to CptJack for his marvelous season, showing us that it is possible to get benched as a captain of a team with such bad play. With his games against Black Sword, CptJack proved that it was possible to run into continuous Sona ultimates as an AD Carry, waltzing into bushes, forcing terrible team fights, and getting caught out in lane over and over again. Although he was able to fight back in the games, keeping up in CS -- something that CptJack does excel at -- and eventually help Blaze take a split in their series against the shaky Sword squad, his performance was bad enough that it landed him straight on the bench for the series against CTU and the eventual tiebreak for first place in the group.
Even worse, he was replaced by Hermes, a guy who was traded to CJ Entus Blaze from their sister squad Frost due to his awful performance in last season's semifinals -- where, in a landmark moment, Hermes got outplayed in lane by the guy he would eventually replace, CptJack, and let Blaze stomp over Frost into the semifinals. While Hermes has a lower ceiling than CptJack when it comes to full potential, his ability to not die three times in the first five minutes and walk straight into bushes gave him the one up on Blaze's captain, giving him a second chance to be a starter on a CJ Entus team.
Summing up his entire season, after CJ Entus Blaze defeated CTU to qualify first in their group, CptJack -- who did not play at all on the day -- was given the honor to pick the ball that would determine which team Blaze would face in the quarterfinals. From captain of the team to designated lottery ball picker, CptJack did his job diligently, hoping to avoid Frost in the semifinals and get the Falcons or Shield, two newly constructed squads, in the quarterfinals.
Instead, CptJack somehow got Blaze pitted up against the KT Bullets in the first round -- a team that Blaze has never defeated in a single game during an official competition -- and a probable date with their kin squad Frost if they are somehow able to finally beat the Bullets and make the semifinals. In short, CptJack picked the worst draw possible for Blaze, fulfilling his duties for the day.
In spite of all that, it still isn't completely confirmed Hermes will be the starting AD Carry for Blaze when they face the Bullets. All statistics point to Hermes as the player Blaze will probably use in the series, but could this truly be the end for good ole' CptJack on Blaze? Will our last memories of Jack on Blaze be him getting embarrassed by Cain in the Sword series and then looking melancholy during the quarterfinal group selections?
CJ Entus Blaze vs KT Rolster Bullets
Following the biggest upset in Champions final history when the underdogs MVP Ozone not only beat the favorites CJ Entus Blaze, but destroyed them in a 3-0 sweep, Blaze has been trying to regain the unstoppable aura that they had before getting exploited by Ozone. After winning thirteen straight games to make it to the finals, Ozone showed every other top tier team in Korea how to beat Blaze: pressure Ambition and Flame early, stop them from getting farm, and force Helios and CptJack to be the ones to win the game for Blaze. With dade shutting down Ambition, Flame getting ganked over and over by Dandy and Homme, and CptJack and Lustboy not being able to touch the bot lane of imp and Mata, the immortal Blaze were shown to be purely mortals, relying on the same strategy over and over to great success.
The Bullets, like Blaze, also had a disappointing end to their season against Ozone a bit earlier in the quarterfinals, falling 1-3 to the eventual champions. After being hyped as the favorites for two seasons to take the title home and consecutively bombed out both instances, the Bullets decided to change up their line-up, bringing back their former star Jungler Kakao from their sister team KT Arrows. As the dominoes continued to fall, Insec, the all star Korean Jungler, decided that the best way to help the team would be moving to the top lane, giving him a better way to carry the team with his aggressive ways and let Kakao be the full-time Jungler starter.
Both teams have had good, but not overly successful regular seasons, Blaze ending up with an overall record of 5-2 -- playing an extra game against CTU in the tiebreaker for first place in Group B -- and the Bullets finishing second to CJ Frost, ending up 4-2 and dropping a surprising game to LG-IM #1 to finish off the group stages. On paper, these two teams are stacked with superstars, containing some of the best players in the world at their positions. Insec, Flame, Ambition, Kakao, and so on, the mechanical skill one through five on both teams is world class, but that has not led them to championship success the past few seasons.
While Blaze has the problem of playing the same stale, predictable strategy every single game, trying to get Flame farmed off split pushing and then hoping he can carry them to a victory alongside Ambition, Bullets just have an inexplicable knack to choke when it gets to the playoff stages, playing down from their ultimate potential before they can reach their goal of making the finals. On paper, the Bullets almost have no holes, each player in their line-up remarkably skilled, and they do have a good team synergy, but it just seems like when the playoff rounds begin, one way or another, they will find a way to lose.
The biggest overarching storyline heading into this series is the complete dominance the Bullets have had over Blaze since their inception months ago. In official competition, Blaze have never taken a game off the Bullets, losing to them in the group stages two seasons ago, in the third place match that very same season, and then getting blown out in the Asian Indoor Games qualifiers. No matter what the line-up for the two teams have been, the Bullets have not really been touched by Blaze, having an easy time each time the two teams have faced off in a tournament.
For Blaze to win and move onto the semifinals, they will not only have to get over their Bullets curse, but they'll have to expand on their split push strategy that won't work against a team as good and aggressive as the Bullets. While it might work against teams not as coordinated or as mechanically skilled as the Blaze team, it is going to take more than a single strategy to knock out the surging Bullets from KT Rolster.
For better or for worse, Blaze lives and dies by Flame - Photo by http://www.inven.co.kr
Flame vs. Insec
Flame vs. Insec
It's simple, we kill The Pilot. No, really, the fastest and easiest way to defeat Blaze is to disrupt Flame early and often. Although his one-on-one skills, farming, and general mechanical skill might make him one of, if not the most talented player in the world, Blaze doesn't really hide what they're doing when they get into a game. They are going to try to get Flame to split push, let him power up, and then even if Blaze is trailing by a somewhat comfortable distance of 3k gold or lower, he can come in with Blaze's immaculate 5v5 team fighting and help his team get the W. If you leave Flame to his own devices for most of the game, then you're probably going to have a bad time.
Ozone decided that letting Flame play against creeps and get into a position to carry wasn't a smart idea, so they continually harassed him early in lane, not letting him get enough time to breath to get his CS up or level up enough to pilot the Blaze jet to victory. This meant of course with Dandy helping Homme bother Flame all the time in the early game, that this would let the other players have a chance to lead Blaze to victory. Thing is, like his nickname dictates, if The Pilot isn't the one flying the plane, there is a good chance it's going to crash. Taking control from Flame's hands and asking their bot lane of CptJack and Lustboy to carry was like handing the reigns to a drunk stewardess, the Blaze jet crashing in a blaze of non-glory, losing the final 0-3.
If there is one Top Laner who has the ability to take Flame one-on-one and not give him any chance to take a breath, it's going to be the Jungle-now-Top Lane Insec, having made a pretty seamless transition from the jungle position to his new playground in the top. The way that Ozone and Homme were able to thwart Flame was by having Dandy and the rest of the team disrupt Flame all game, and they also put Homme on sustain heavy, tanky champions that would not be able to get taken down fast enough to let Flame get an early advantage. If you look at what champions Insec has primarily played this season since moving to his new position, it has mostly been those same sustain heavy champions that Homme used to beat Flame in the finals.
With Ambition having a rocky season, Helios being his rock solid, but not overly remarkable self, and the bottom lane continually getting switched around and still having major issues, Flame will more than likely have to play like the best player in the world if Blaze want to make it back to the semifinals. Once laughed at for buying two Phages during IPL4 and being outed as the main reason Blaze couldn't reach championship level, he has now become their super ace -- the man who holds Blaze's fate in his hands.
The three best Lee Sin players in the world in one series? Get ready Youtube.
Helios vs. Kakao
Helios: 14-5 (73.7%)
Kakao: 8-5 (61.5%)
Insec: 18-5 (78.3%)
Helios vs. Kakao
Helios: 14-5 (73.7%)
Kakao: 8-5 (61.5%)
Insec: 18-5 (78.3%)
We can pretty much call this match-up the battle of Lee Sin. While Elise has become the go to jungle champion if she ever becomes available, Lee Sin is the champion that both Junglers and the Bullets' newest Top Laner have both played most in their careers. Eerily, they have all lost five games on the champion, and they are respected by their peers as being probably the best three Lee Sin players in Korea. Both Kakao and Helios are strong on other champions and have a wide variety of characters they can play, but they both feel like Lee Sin is their ace card if left available.
Helios, per usual, has been nothing but solid in his Jungler position. It's hard to rank him with the Dandy or even his opponent Kakao when it comes to the best Jungler in Korea, but it's not often you can really point at Helios and say he was one of the top three reasons why Blaze lost a game. 19 kills, 19 deaths, and 63 helpers is par the course for the Blaze Jungler, doing what is needed to be done to help his team get farther in the bracket. He will probably never get the praise that Flame or Ambition get as the pillars of Blaze, but it's hard to think of a Blaze without Helios in the jungle. The two words to define Helios -- other than Lee Sin -- are: always reliable. Be it counter jungling, helping his other lanes with ganks, or trying to make game changing plays on his favorite Lee Sin, you can always count on Helios to do his best to get Blaze closer to the championship.
Kakao, on the other hand, is one of the most underrated storylines of the season. When it was announced that Insec was moving into a new role, it really wasn't hammered home enough that the Bullets were bringing back one of the best Junglers in Korea. If Insec had failed in the Top Lane position it might have caused trouble, with both Insec and Kakao far too good to be on the bench for more than a single series, but with Insec showing that he was able to become a formidable Top Laner, that just added to the power of the Bullets, allowing Kakao to have the highest KDA of any the Junglers left in the quarterfinals.
In a story of how different two teams can be, Kakao has a 25-10 all-time record when playing for the Bullets, carrying a 4.2 KDA with his current team. While on his time with the KT Rolster Arrows, he went 7-13, having more than a point lower in his KDA at 2.9. He was asked to do more on Arrows, being their headline star before they picked up Maknoon, but he just wasn't able to fit correctly on the Arrows team like he has been able to on the Bullets. In a more relaxed role where he can have the role of assisting his teammates and not be one of the top two options for carrying, Kakao is at his most dangerous and one of the best Junglers in Korea.
Ryu has a lot to smile about this season
Ambition vs. Ryu
Ambition vs. Ryu
Fun fact: Neither of these players have ever lost an official match on Twisted Fate. Ambition has a 13-0 on the card wielding gambler, and Ryu comes in with a 7-0 record all-time on the champion. Now you can all imagine Blaze and Bullets going to a blind pick ace match, both Ambition and Ryu picking Twisted Fate, and deciding which one will lose their perfect record.
Ambition is having possibly the roughest season he has ever had in Champions, entering the quarterfinals with a shoddy KDA of 3.3 and just not playing up to the standards you would imagine the all-star Korean Mid Laner would have. It almost feels like after pretty much dominating everyone he faced up to the finals last season, that dade -- having no mercy and slaughtering Ambition on his Zed in the finals -- decided to take Ambition's soul along with the Champions trophy and the MVP award he was given to his performance against the all-star in the finals. Ever since Ambition got taken out back and beaten up by dade's Zed in the Champions Spring Finals, it's been a nightmare for the former top Mid Laner in Korea, not being able to get back on track.
For Ryu, it has been an entirely different story. He's been playing some of the best League of his career, entering with a 5.8 KDA and being one of the main reasons why the Bullets were able to get out of a tough Group D with CJ Entus Frost and the wild, but impressive rookies from MiG Blitz. Coming from Startale, Ryu has become one of the most valuable pieces to the Bullets becoming one of the strongest teams in Korea, having a 65% win rate on the KT Rolster roster.
If the play from the regular season spills into the playoffs, this could get ugly fast. The last time we saw Ambition play, he was getting bullied around by Mima's Gragas in the tiebreaker for first place in Group B, and Ryu has been sailing along in the Mid Lane for the Bullets, happily taking on all challengers. We know Ambition can play better than the level he is currently playing at, so hopefully for Blaze's chances at getting further in Champions, dade decides he can finally release his soul and talent that he stole from him during the finals of last season.
Could this be the end of CptJack? - Photo by http://www.inven.co.kr
??? and Lustboy vs. Score and Mafa
??? and Lustboy vs. Score and Mafa
Now we come to the most interesting match-up in the entire series. Score and Mafa are simply quietly amazing, never really being talked about when people discuss who the best bot lane in Korea is, but they don't need to. You will almost never hear drama or criticism about the bottom lane for the Bullets, always doing their jobs diligently and almost never losing in lane. In a world where being talked about in the community isn't always the best thing, Score and Mafa do their jobs better than most duos in the world, and they don't need to be reassured every time they have a good game that they're a legit combination.
For Blaze, the story is the exact opposite. You can't talk about Blaze without mentioning their bottom lane. Lustboy, Hermes and CptJack have created one of the biggest talking points this season, with CptJack's blow up against Black Sword in the group stages and then Hermes replacing him for the last three matches against CTU to close out the regular season. Lustboy's spot seems to be safe on Blaze, not being replaced by Muse after the disaster that was the loss to Black Sword in the game where CptJack seemed to be dancing with Sona every other minute, but there is still a discussion on who his partner should be in the playoffs and the future.
No offense to Hermes, but he's not the most exciting player in the world. To be blunt, he's actually a pretty boring AD Carry, not really doing much out of the ordinary. He really doesn't excel at anything in particular, but he also isn't terribly bad at anything either, making him the perfect plug-in if you need a quick fix in your bottom lane without changing much. In his three games with Blaze, he's done his job, made a few plays, didn't die ten times in lane like CptJack used to, and was a factor in team fights, helping Blaze go 2-1 in his three games. He's a safe, boring pick and while he'll more than likely never be the main reason why Blaze loses a series, he is almost assuredly not going to be the reason why they get past Bullets -- unless they somehow upped his power level in the week we haven't seen him.
CptJack, to also be blunt about him, is like a drunk guy at a frat party. He is never going to be boring, but that a lot of times means something bad is going to happen. Out of every ten games, he might be a mess for eight of them, getting killed in the first five minutes, making bad vision decisions by trying to look into bushes without wards, and walk into team fights that his team shouldn't be taking at that particular second. There have been many occasions where you can look at a Blaze game, look at CptJack in the lane phase, and point out that if he had played even at an average level, that his team would have either won the game or had a much easier time winning than the game than having to make an epic comeback in the late stages of the game.
Still, with all his faults, terrible decisions, and gift to somehow always die in the first five minutes, CptJack is something Hermes is simply not (or at least shown so far in his career). CptJack, maybe one night out of every ten -- or even once every twenty nights -- can be a game breaker. For that one night, he can be the best AD Carry in the world, hold down his lane in the early phase of the game, transition into the mid-game with a lead over his opponent in CS, and then end the game with perfect team fighting along with the rest of his team members. He has shown this ability in small doses the past few seasons, but it just isn't consistent. He had one of those nights -- ironically against Hermes -- in last season's semifinals against Frost, but the magic didn't last, CptJack going from hero to zero in the finals and getting outclassed by imp when it mattered the most.
The question for Blaze in this quarterfinal match-up is what they want. With Hermes, you pretty much know what you're getting. He'll probably lose in CS, but be able to keep up well enough to not outright die in the late-game. He will be a help in team fights, but not be the main initiator or reason why Blaze won or loss a big battle. At the end of the game, you'll look at Hermes, say he had a decent game, and then move on with your life.
If you pick CptJack, you are holding out on the chance that it's one of those nights where he is the true captain of Blaze -- the type of player that will lead his team to the promised land and play like one of the best players in Korea. If you can get that CptJack, Blaze is pretty much impossible to stop, no matter if they use their same played out strategy they've been using for two seasons straight. If the more likely outcome occurs and it's another one of those nights where CptJack is more of a sieve than a star, then Blaze will have to overcome early deaths, a few mishaps in the jungle, and hope that he can come back in the late-game with the comeback.
Whatever they choose, the tone for the series will be set by which ADC Blaze choose to go into war with. Will they take their criticized, unpredictable captain that has the ability -- when on his game -- to make Blaze the strongest team in the world, or will they go with the safe, vanilla pick, hoping that Hermes can hold the fort down while they cross their fingers that Ambition and especially Flame can get going, bringing Blaze victory into the semifinals?
CJ Entus Frost vs Najin White Shield
The second match of the round of 8 could be considered Korean's El Classico – a clash between the CJ Entus and Najin teams. CJ Entus Frost and Najin White Shield have a long rivalry, dating back to when Frost was under the MiG umbrella and Shield was the original e-mFire team. However, Frost have undergone many roster swaps since then, and not a single member of Najin e-mFire remains on Shield. Both teams have taken a backseat to their sister teams in recent times as well, so this will be an opportunity for both teams to propel themselves back into the spotlight.
Frost and Shield have performed solidly in this season so far, as is usually expected of both teams. Though this season has been standard fare for Frost (finishing the group stage with a 5-1 record), Najin White Shield have earned the applause of fans by qualifying in a tight group off a 3-3 record, hounded by rookies LG-IM #2 and veterans MVP Blue. To cement their admirable performance, all this was done with a new seven-man squad. Though Shield lost respected top laner Expession to their sister team, they qualified for the round of 8 while Sword did not, leading some to question if Sword was still the superior team.
Frost have pulled out surprises of their own as well, namely in the rotation of former n.Die.Guts mid laner Ganked by Mom (or GangMom, as he was previously known) to a starter position in RapidStar's absence. Ganked by Mom has not had any real poor performances thus far, leading some to already declare him an improvement over the veteran RapidStar. His favouring of Orianna has allowed one of the world's best teamfighting squads to press their late advantages even harder. Space's promotion to starter and his ability to play more selfish carries such as Vayne has created one of the best new bot lane combinations, as well as giving MadLife the carry he deserves, one which may remind some of the legendary 'Tier 1' LocoLife lane of old.
Historically, neither team has had a real advantage over the other. Unlike the lopsided scorecard of CJ Entus Blaze vs KT Rolster Bullets, past games do not reveal any particular advantage when it comes to Frost and Shield. Their last meeting in spring even resulted in a draw, driving home the fact that neither team has the other's number. This could be owed to their fairly similar playstyles, and this holds true even today as both teams move towards heavier objective control.
Yet, by looking at the facts, it is hard to deny that CJ Entus Frost has the clear advantage. Though Frost dropped a game to KT Rolster (piloted by an amazing performance on Malphite by inSec), they have appeared to be the same reliable Frost of previous seasons. Shield fell 0:2 to the rampaging SK Telecom T1, and lost one game to the weaker MVP Blue. They are far from flawless, and the odds are definitely stacked against them coming in.
No one would blame Najin White Shield for losing now. But if they were to grasp victory against the new Frost, they would simultaneously achieve their best Champions performance to date as well as hand Frost their worst Champions finish. It is clear that this is Frost's match to lose – but the biggest question is if they will buckle under the pressure like KT Rolster have multiple times in the past, or sail through like MVP Ozone in their spectacular playoffs run last season.
Shy looks to assert his dominance against Shield - Photo by http://dailyesports.com
Shy vs. Save
Shy vs. Save
As far as lane match-ups go for the round of 8, Save has one of the heaviest crosses to carry. Shy has shown no signs of slowing down coming into summer, performing spectacularly in the top lane. Save, on the other hand, has looked merely average next to the top laners of his group, including SK Telecom T1's Impact. His match-up against Shy will be his greatest test yet as he faces one of the best top laners in the world. The former mid laner will have to hold nothing back against who is possibly the world's most consistent player.
There is no denying that Shy's consistency is his greatest strength. The number of games in which he has not made a significant contribution to his team's efforts can likely be counted on one hand. After replacing Woong (who was considered a 'Tier 1' player in the top lane with the likes of Locodoco, MadLife and Ambition), speculations arose as to whether the unknown rookie would be able to fill the large void left in the top lane by the player who carried every single one of MiG Frost's winning games. Shy put the speculations to rest as he pulled off performance after performance, establishing himself as a force in the top lane.
Yet, his consistency may also be his greatest weakness. Shy is never really seen dominating his 1v1 lanes without the help of CloudTemplar, as seems to be the trend for all of CJ Entus Frost's players. Though he has a remarkable ability to play from behind and achieve high levels of farm regardless of match-up and jungle interaction, apart from a few outliers (such as his humiliation of Smeb's Shen with Vladimir) Shy has never won his lane on the same scale as his Blaze counterpart Flame. Though it will come with time, in the present, top laners do have a degree of freedom against Shy.
If we look at both Shy and Save's champion selections, nothing has really stuck out so far this season. Neither player can be banned out, and as such they will often acquire the strong picks such as Elise or Kennen. It would be folly, however, to assume that Save has a shallow champion pool limited to the current flavors of the month. To beat CJ Entus Frost, relying on standard plays will not be enough – a surprise is necessary. Save's hopes for victory ride on what he will do to upset Shy, because in a straight-up brawl, he will set the pace for his team's elimination.
NoFe has more weight on his shoulders than ever before - Photo by dailyesports.com
CloudTemplar vs. NoFe
CloudTemplar vs. NoFe
Champions Summer has been an interesting tournament for CloudTemplar and NoFe. The junglers have both had to adjust to the changing dynamics in their teams, as well as changing trends in the jungle. Though it would seem that Korean junglers are moving towards carnivore champions, CloudTemplar has remained insistent on picking his herbivores in Nunu, Zac and Amumu. Though he has touched Elise a few times, the veteran jungler has still found success on less aggressive junglers to fit his team's late-game oriented playstyle.
NoFe, on the other hand, seems to be more comfortable with each game he plays. Jarvan IV and Lee Sin have been top picks for him so far, with Evelynn being picked up as well. Najin White Shield's restructuring has led to additional pressure on NoFe to create advantages, which he has been shouldering with aplomb. It would not be a great stretch to call him the core of Shield's strategy.
At first glance, the match-up seems to be tilted in NoFe's favour. Carnivores have always been on top of the food chain, and DanDy and KakaO have done an admirable job in claiming inSec's abandoned throne. Though CloudTemplar is regretful that he coined the terms 'carnivore' and 'herbivore' to refer to jungle styles and champion preference, he will have to prove the viability of the herbivore style as he fends off NoFe's assaults on his jungle and lanes.
The true battle between these two junglers who are opposite in polarity will be fought over the entire length of the match, and their merit will be judged based on how their styles assist their team, rather than how they shape up against each other. CJ Entus Frost's strategies have become more aggressive of late off the inclusion of Ganked by Mom to the squad, which may indicate carnivores other than Elise being practised by CloudTemplar. Meanwhile, NoFe makes no illusions as to his game plan, and will be the one to begin controlling the tempo of games.
The bleached terror: Ganked by mom has been one of the best rookies of the season - Photo by ThisIsGame.com
??? vs GGOONG
??? vs GGOONG
As a preface to the mid lane preview, CJ Entus has not yet announced which of their mid laners will take the stage against GGOONG. Unless further information is disclosed, however, we will assume that Ganked by Mom will play.
Ganked by Mom and GGOONG follow the trend of rookie mid laners in Korea – abnormally talented in the mechanical field, but lacking in experience. However, it is not fair to say that either of these Champions debutantes are inexperienced. Ganked by Mom was a substitute acquired from NLB team n.Die.Guts, who met their end against LG-IM #1 in the Platinum League (a qualifier round for the main tournament), while GGOONG is the reborn Grape (a former Protoss) from Samsung KHAN's Brood War team. Their experience with competitive gaming has allowed them to fit comfortably into their new teams, and will be the backbone of future growth.
Orianna has been Ganked by Mom's favoured pick so far in Champions Summer, with the mid laner selecting her in four out of six games (the other two games involved MiG Blitz banning out the Orianna twice). This selection has created a new dynamic for CJ Entus Frost, and highly bolstered their teamfighting potential, especially in tandem with Space's Twitch. GGOONG has not shown any particular preferences, but boasts a spotless record on Ryze, winning two from two games with him, as well as picking two mid champions who have returned to the forefront in Vladimir and Ahri.
We have not seen enough of either mid laner to make a fair judgement on how the lane will play out, but it can be said with confidence that neither of these players have an overwhelming advantage over the other. To the detriment of audiences, Ganked by Mom and GGOONG's lane will likely play out similarly to Shy and Save's, unless one of the players has a surprise in store. The true impact of the mid lane will come down to their roam. Ganked by Mom picked strong gankers in Twisted Fate and Zed against MiG Blitz, while GGOONG has shown proficiency on the revived star of the Korean mid lane Ahri.
The point of focus for these mid laners will be how they can assist their team in taking early advantages. Coordination with their junglers will be crucial in impacting the highly volatile bottom lane as well as looking for towers, and the match will be a great learning experience for both rookies as they play the first major best of 5 match of their careers.
God finds himself under assault from mortals
Space and Madlife vs. ??? and Gorilla
Space and Madlife vs. ??? and Gorilla
Najin White Shield rotates their roster often, and the organisation has not revealed whether Locodoco or Zefa will partner up with Gorilla against CJ Entus Frost. Due to Zefa's superior performance so far, it will be assumed that Zefa is playing.
The combination of Space and MadLife has reignited a flame in the hearts of Korean audiences. For many seasons, MadLife has been plagued with AD partners who were not up to scratch. Though Woong was a brilliant strategic mind, his mastery of the AD carry role left something to be desired. Though Hermes was a pickup with immense potential, he failed to improve to much degree during Champions Spring. Space has been with the CJ Entus organisation since the days of inSec and LongPanda, and has finally found his calling in laning with the world's best support and possibly player, MadLife.
Space has picked a variety of champions that has already eclipsed Hermes' favouring of Miss Fortune, playing strongly on hypercarries Vayne, Twitch and Kog'Maw. His synergy with MadLife was best displayed in his game on Twitch with MadLife's Alistar, where the duo won their lane and roamed around the map picking up kills and snowballing into a late-game advantage. Zefa and Gorilla have not been slouching either, however. Zefa boasts a KDA of 9.0, the second highest of any AD carry in Champions Summer, behind SK Telecom T1's Piglet. Gorilla has been an improvement over Wolf, suggesting that not all carnivores reign supreme in Korea. His Thresh play has amazed audiences and the young support may be on his way to reaching the pantheon inhabited by top supports such as MadLife and Mata.
It was previously stated that the bottom lane would be the most volatile element of the quarter-final match. MadLife and Gorilla are both such aggressive supports and hold such great synergy with their carries that kills could be traded at any moment. Additionally, both Space and Zefa act as the main damage dealers for their teams, unlike more support-oriented carry players like Score or the replaced Hermes (who may take the stage against KT Rolster Bullets). Shutting down the bottom lane will be a key objective for both teams' junglers, and the level of action is guaranteed to be high.
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