Welcome back to another edition of your favorite LiquidLegends content series. We know it’s difficult to keep up with every league worldwide, but luckily for you, as per usual, we’ve got you covered. The second month of the year gave us a steady supply of quality games, despite the Asian leagues stopping for a brief Lunar Year holiday break.
The month of February came with a number of gameplay changes, most notably, the incorporation of Sylas 'The Unshackled' to the competitive roster and the appearance of the `Frostmancy` builds and strategies — although the latter was swiftly addressed by Riot via a hotfix. As for picks, the priorities slightly shifted following adjustments to some of the most dominant champions such as Akali, Irelia and Urgot. Nevertheless, even after nerfs, the likes of Galio and Aatrox have found ways to remain relevant, even if that meant changing roles.
It was a month where league leaders in the major regions cemented their top spot but at the same time showed that they too, could bleed. Some historical records ended, and new ones were made too. We welcomed back old friends, while former champions and fan favorites struggled.
Join us in our review of the best games professional League of Legends had to offer and remember if you’d like to view the games without being spoilered, we’ve made a playlist for you to watch. Click here, then come back and read the analysis and discuss the games!
Now, without further ado, let´s get onto the list.
SKT vs KZ
During Patch 9.3, a strategy that abused the gold generating mechanics of the Frostfang (support AP item) was discovered by players worldwide. Users were able to generate more gold by ignoring the traditional laning method of accruing gold by last hitting creeps and instead, gaining gold by harassing their lane opponent instead like support players usually do. Variants emerged for this build, pairing it with the Kleptomancy rune for extra gold, with some initiating the strategy from level one to others starting after the first recall, each of them with their own advantages.
It was only a matter of time before professional teams introduced it to the major leagues. It would not be long before Riot actively fixed this issue, but while it lasted it stamped its mark in the meta.
Welcome to the epitome of the Frostmancy fiesta, SKT vs KZ, where not one, not two, not three, but four Frostfangs were purchases by laners. Enjoy it because it's not coming back.
G2 vs Fnatic
After a phenomenal Worlds performance by these two teams in 2018, they finally got to face each other in the LEC. They were meeting, however, in very different circumstances. The G2 squad was dominating the league ever since it started and they were not only undefeated but also seemingly untouchable. Fnatic, on the other hand, was stuck in the lower half of the standings, still struggling to find their new team identity.
Given the two teams' disparity in the standings, the expectations were pretty low for the quality of the match, but it still deserves to be mentioned, and not because David defeated Goliath in a Biblical upset. In this case, poor David was crushed, and G(oliath)2 claimed another record, the fastest official game in EU LCS (now LEC) history. They also sent a message to all of their competition. Not only were they in search of the LEC title, they wanted the MSI throne, and even further, they want it all.
La Casa De Fiesta: SB vs JAG (Game 2)
In a new addition to our Games of the Month piece, we've brought out the "La Casa De Fiesta" award for the game that devolved into the biggest fiesta of the month. And, of course, our inaugural award has to go to a Jin Air Greenwings match. The team most famous for their ability to draw games out for eons faced a Sandbox Gaming team looking to dispatch the last place team in quick fashion. While Sandbox was no doubt the superior team in the series, Jin Air just held onto their base in a frantic base defence.
What came next had everybody dumbfounded. Take it away, Darshan. No seriously, take it away. My eyes are burning.
LCK - SKT vs DAMWON (Game 3)
The last time we saw Flame, most people would agree that he was doing a fine, if not above average job in his second year in the NA LCS and that a third year in the region would be expected. Unfortunately, Flame could not agree on a deal with the teams interested in signing him, and he ended the offseason teamless, deciding to stay in Korea. Many wondered if it would be the last time we would see the man who coined the term "Flame Horizon". Surprisingly, on February 18th, it was announced that he had joined the young squad of DAMWON Gaming, still hungry for achievements as a veteran of the scene. He wouldn't have to wait long for his return to the professional stage in his home country.
Having passed the equator of the regular split, SKT and DWG faced for the second time in the spring season, both trying to prove they belong in the upper echelon of the league, eager to reduce the distance between themselves and the undefeated rulers of the region, Griffin. Following an SKT victory in the first game, DWG decided to shake their roster up. Top lane veteran, Flame, and rookie jungler, Canyon, were put to the test in a potentially series-deciding game. In a topsy turvy match full of gold swings, it was DAMWON, off the back of superior team fighting and a Riven jungle from Canyon, that tied the game up at 1-1.
For the decider, SKT drafted a team-fighting composition consisting of a Sivir and four tanks acting as bodyguards, something Teddy would no longer be familiar with from his time on Jin Air in 2018. Damwon answered by rounding their draft off with the late-game thread of Kayn in the jungle, and with the focus on Flame’s first pick Urgot.
Both teams seemed content playing an uneventful early game, until the 17-minute mark, when, with infernal drake on the table, the teams clashed around the pit. The ensuing fight would put SKT in the driver’s seat, giving them control of the map. Only minutes later, SKT would punish an overly aggressive move by ShowMaker’s Lissandra, followed by a kill on BeryL on the back of that play, which would give them the chance to start Baron in a 5vs3 situation that could very well put the nail in the coffin of DAMWON.
So here Flame stands, back in Korea with this team of rookies. He stands against the might of the SKT superteam, with his Unsealed Spellbook Urgot. How the times have changed for Flame, and yet it feels eerily familiar, it’s time for the top lane god to show up. To once again put his name up in lights on the Korean stage.
LEC - Origen vs G2
For the whole first half of the League of Legends European Championship Spring Split, G2 Esports had looked completely invincible. Having bet on bringing former Fnatic mid laner, Caps, into the team during the off-season and role-swapping mid-laner, Perkz, to the bottom lane was ultimately paying dividends, as they had gone on an impressive nine wins streak, surpassing all of the competition without turning a hair.
Their SoloQ-like style, according to which they heavily relied on the pressure that Caps was able to consistently apply in his mid-lane matchups in order to turn it into general advantages for the team, seemed to be too much to handle for most European rivals, who left their games against the boys of Carlos “Ocelote” Rodríguez comprehensively overwhelmed by the amazing mechanical skill that each and every member in the roster possessed.
Thus, coming into their tenth game, nobody was expecting G2 to hand a win over to Origen. Sure, some analysts had pointed out that they were probably the only team capable of making the so-far undefeated beasts struggle in-game at that point, but the Karthus game from early on in the split, which was curiously featured in February's Top 5 as well, was still present in all the fan´s minds, who could not help but remember how Jankos's ultimates had completely decimated Origen to the point of even creating a completely new meta around 'The Deathsinger'.
The outcome of the match, however, would not match fans' expectations at all. A last-pick Zed courtesy of ever-consistent veteran, Nukeduck, turned the tides in the favor of Origen, as the Norwegian solo-killed Caps's Cassiopeia during the lane phase. With Perkz and Mikyx also having a rough time down in the bot-lane and Jankos's Lee Sin not being able to out-jungle Origen´s revenge Karthus pick, G2 was put in a disadvantageous situation that they had not been in this season.
Without clearly winning lanes, and against a composition that actually out-scaled them, G2 could not handle Origen's vengeful wrath, as they were dealt a death blow that hit the mark. This did not mean the beginning of their downfall had arrived, however, as G2 took note of what had happened and managed to complete February without another loss to their name. Nonetheless, Origen still spiced up the competition a little bit coming into the last few weeks of regular season, as they proved that even the Gods of G2 could bleed.
LPL - Invictus Gaming vs LGD
Invictus Gaming are the reigning world champions. Thus, they are definitely one of the best Chinese teams, and the favorites to represent the region at the upcoming Mid Season Invitational. Their talented individuals and experience when it comes to playing as a unit are two of the characteristics that maintain the fans trusting in Song “Rookie” Eui-jin´s bunch to step up to the plate once the play-offs begin in the LPL.
So far in the Spring Split, however, Invictus Gaming have unwillingly managed to show some signs of weakness, even if they are still in the upper positions of the LPL, with a record of six victories and just two lost series. One of these signs was actually featured in the top 5 last month, as JD Gaming surpassed them in a nerve-wracking 2-1 affair. Back then, JD was still a promising roster which could very well upset any of the teams above them in the standings, but coming into iG´s match against LGD, this was not the case at all.
At the time of the clash, LGD were dead last in the league and without a win to their name, nobody gave them a chance at giving their rivals a hard time of any kind. For Invictus Gaming, not even the absence of renowned marksman, JackeyLove, could have justified a slump in that particular series. What ended up happening, however, was exactly that.
LGD´s jungler, Condi, justifiably first-picked Olaf in Game One, as he went on to surpass the opposing Kindred in the early game in order to put his lanes ahead. With a significant lead in their hands and the pressure that top-laner, Lies, was able to apply with Yorick growing more and more with every moment, the game seemed in the bag for LGD. It was not until Duke's Urgot stopped carrying the team-fights for iG, however, that the underdogs were finally able to close the map.
Going into the second and last game of the series, the worry in the faces of Invictus Gaming´s members was almost palpable, and their performance did nothing more than confirm these feelings. In a way more one-sided victory, LGD did not give any chance to the world champions, dominating the game from the get-go, individually outshining them in each and every position with an unexpected high-class awareness on how to play rotations and the macro-game.
This series did ultimately not impact the league a great deal, as both teams have since followed with their previous trends, but, merit where it is due, it brought a really chilling thought to the minds of every western LoL fan. If even a bottom tier Chinese team is capable of performing at such a high level, what will happen to G2 or Team Liquid once the international tournaments come around? Well, we can not know yet, but China hasn't grown complacent over its 2018 escapades, and they're still looking to get even better.
LCK - Griffin vs Sandbox (Game 3)
Epic matches are not too common in League of Legends. Quite often, maybe more than needed, the best teams in each region are found fighting against lower level opponents instead of against a rival of their same caliber, as most fans would certainly wish. Therefore, when a match featuring two legitimate contenders takes place, it better not disappoint.
After how one-sided the SKT vs Griffin match-up had turned out to be back in January, Korean fans looked forward to the first place team's series versus SANDBOX Gaming, the most surprising team coming from Challengers Korea 2018. Fortunately, the match managed to satisfy everybody, including the hundreds of fans that packed the LoL Park stadium on the day of the clash.
Once in-game, both sides went on to show why they were the best rosters in the LCK at the time. After the first game predictably went the way of Griffin, SANDBOX managed to pull off an upset in the second one, in what would mark the first game loss suffered by Griffin in the whole split, which moreover meant that mid-laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon´s KDA went below 100 again, as he could not help but die during his team´s defeat.
Griffin could afford to lose one game, but they certainly were not willing to let an entire series slip away from their hands. Leaving behind their draft from the second game, in which they had left some power-picks such as Lucian, Akali, and Cassiopeia available for SANDBOX to pick for no apparent reason, they chose to run a composition that could very reliably answer to what their enemies were proposing.
As soon as they identified that they were going to have to play against the classic Nocturne and Galio combo, that tries to take advantage of all of the hard-engage that it can throw against the enemy, they responded with a very intelligent picks-based composition featuring an Olaf that could confidently invade Nocturne early on. They also picked up an incredibly useful Tahm Kench, which they utilized for saving the carries (Zoe and Lucian) from all the crowd-control that SANDBOX had at their disposal.
The result? A very tactical but beautiful game, Korean-like some would say, that ended up asserting the dominance of Griffin above the rest of the competition in the country. SANDBOX had made the new kings suffer, they had put them on the ropes once, but they were not yet prepared to fully surpass them. The fear that Griffin has spread within the League of Legends community, however, is not that Sandbox can surpass them, but that nobody can.
LCS - TSM vs Cloud9
The 2019 LCS Spring Split has had a somewhat slow start. Teams have been struggling to synergize, and are finding it difficult to adapt to the meta. Many teams have shown little progress from week to week, and games have been slow paced. These can all said to be valid concerns about the league this season. However, for all the problems it may have, we still love what it brings to the table in terms of entertainment and personalities.
While the standings have been dominated by TL, who've accrued their wins mainly through methodical, low-risk plays; we will be looking at the match between TSM and C9. Two of the household names in the league and both fan favorites in their own right.
In a region plagued by slow and indecisive play, sometimes devolving into the so-called “N.A.R.A.M.”, C9 is one of the more proactive teams, often looking for plays or skirmishes where others will take the back seat and farm passively or wait for better fights. Meanwhile, TSM has had to integrate three new players this season, and as such, their coordination didn’t look the best coming into this game.
In this match, the action kicked off in the draft phase. TSM selected champions to back up a lockdown CC composition with Lissandra, Sion, Zilean, while C9 saw an excellent opportunity to bring out Sylas against a team with excellent ultimates for The Unshackled Demacian to steal. This would be the first time the LCS was able to witness Sylas, even though he had been already explored in other regions, albeit with not much success.
So take it easy, endure the laning phase, and get ready to enjoy very interesting and somewhat chaotic team fights, as Licorice had to choose wisely which of his opponents' ultimates would suit each situation the best to help his team achieve the victory.