I’m celebrating my first week back at full-strength by unwinding with some drinks, dinner, and League of Legends Championship series. We already saw Curse remain undefeated with a defeat of Vulcun, and now Dignitas is taking on Good Game University.
I haven’t had much of a chance to see the LCS so far this season, due to some health issues and the fallout from that. So I’m getting reacquainted with competitive LoL this weekend. Of particular interest to me is the difference in styles and ability between standbys like Curse and TSM Snapdragon and newcomers like GGU and Team MRN. So far, at least in North America, the comparison has not been favorable to the newcomers.
To start out, Paul Dean is joining me to take a look at the North American scene and perhaps pick up some tricks as he gets into League of Legends after a tragic affair with Dota 2. We’ll be updating this page throughout the evening, so just hit refresh every once in awhile to see our reactions.
Rob: So Paul, tell me, what do you think of the pause strategy the teams have adopted for this match?
Paul: It’s definitely mind games, Rob. The teams are both holding back and waiting for the other to make a mistake or offer an opening.
Rob: I’ll admit I have a horror of the pause screen at this point. It bring back painful memories of the Playoffs last year and the complete meltdown at LA Live. Plus, any StarCraft fan has vivid memories of lost matches and tournament hiccups due to connection loss and other technical issues. But we’re back at it, and Dignitas are off to a very strong start with first blood from Imaqtpie diving on Fat. And now we just saw a decent exchange as GGU and Dignitas trade kills. Gold has narrowed, too. Dignitas is about 2000 ahead at 13 minutes.
Paul: Right, but at the moment I think my money is still on Dignitas. GGU look too tight, too bunched together, keen to gank as a group, while Dignitas look more fluid and so more confident. Also, seeing that top turret pushed over reminds you that they’re still playing the whole field. I think GGU lack that vision right now.
In fact, I think GGU are playing in lanes, rather than playing the whole map, and that let’s Dignitas have their fun while GGU remain bunched together.
Rob, you said that GGU just about managed to get it out of that 5v5 brawl without it ending much worse, but I wonder why they didn’t flee sooner. It seemed like they weren’t sure if they could pull something out of it and they almost risked their whole team, rather than just one member. It was not the time to hang around or hesitate.
Rob: You know, I can kind of see why they’re bunched, though. The first time one of them goes solo into top to clear that turret, and Scarra dives and kills him right away. But they picked Scarra up a moment later in mid and got a kill, bringing kills to 4-3. But they’re not going to stanch the bleeding that way. The gold and turret count is disastrous for GGU. 8K in favor for Dignitas.
Paul: There’s now two more turrets about to fall over, top and mid, just and Dignitas take the next one on the bottom, and I think Dignitas are pretty much taking these things down on appointment now. They could knock over whatever turret they want to next.
Now, as GGU run back to their own base to try and plug a hole, we can see again Dignitas just controlling where the fighting happens. Then GGU is burned in the next brawl, and now we see yet another brawl where GGU just can’t step up. They’re looking so vulnerable when there’s anything less than five of them, which there usually is as soon as these gangs brawl. Dignitas are more efficient and GGU are just looking... what’s the phrase? Squishy.
Rob: See, this is the hard part for me. Barring a miracle, this game is over. But this phase of the game can drag on a bit, especially because nobody wants to get overly aggressive, lose a bad fight, and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. So Dignitas are going into siege mode while GGU try to hold on to their Nexus.>
But it’s also too bad because GGU just isn’t in a position to exploit any opportunities. We just saw a great shot from Spartan’s Lux a moment ago that brought Dignitas down quite a bit. But GGU can’t exploit those shots because they’re too far behind, too pinned. So this ending is just inevitable.
Paul: It’s sad but true, but we got to learn a lesson here, at least. This was a game of maneuvering, of being in the right lane at the right time. Dignitas showed how that’s done, GGU showed how it isn’t, and if I take one image from this encounter it’s that of their entire team rushing back down the mid lane together, as they realise they’re all out of position.
10:25 - MRN vs. TSM
Rob: So that was a sweet little feature we just saw about Dyrus and his father. That kind of feature content is something Riot have really been emphasizing with their approach to producing this season. I like the idea, but I’m not so sure... well, I guess I’d say I’m conflicted. I think these kinds of features are one of the weakest aspects of sports productions. Particularly in the US. They have a way of crowding out substance. As anyone who watched NBC’s awful Olympics coverage can attest. And I can see some of the same approach evident here. There is a tendency to stretch for “heartwarming” stories, and I’m wary of it. Past a point, it becomes maudlin manipulation.
Paul: We have a little bit of less manufactured drama here, though. Apparently, ecco is not feeling well at all, and after throwing up yesterday, he’s still looking pretty pasty and uncomfortable in his chair. I feel terrible for the guy because he’s under enough pressure as it is already, but the extra challenge added by being quite visibly unwell, that’s not something any of these players should have to suffer. He’s only going to go and step out into the middle lane, too.
Paul: Oh wow, are we about to.. yep, there’s the first gank, the first blood of the game. Very well timed indeed there, in the bottom lane. Chaox took a few hits but he won’t mind...
...and then MegaZero is down a second time! That was a well-executed trap, but I’ve got to say that he should really have had a little more awareness and he knew there were already two champions facing off, enough of a danger without a third hiding in the tall grass. What’s more, the rescue effort just fed them even further. TSM will be delighted with that.
MRN have the chance to take that top turret down and they really should, not least because TSM aren’t going to ease off on the bottom. If they don’t take Chaox again, they’ll take the turret instead.
Rob: So I can’t believe MRN have managed to stave off a rout here. They’re only a grand behind on gold at 11 minutes. Even on towers. I really thought MegaZero was just going to get killed down there all game, but the lane swap was a good decision. Getting him out of bottom and away from all that poke was crucial. But now he's in a one on one with Dyrus, which is always a tough matchup.
Rob: It’s not like the competition is stiff for this honor, but... match of the night? And as I say that, it pauses. OddOne was just off being sick somewhere, apparently?
Match resumes and MRN have a disastrous dragon fight. Needed to bail out much, much sooner. Not sure why didn’t evacuate north toward mid rather than make that last suicide attack. 5k gold favoring TSM now, up a turret.
Paul: And now I think TSM are running with the momentum they have. This isn’t a match that’s over and I think we’d be foolish to say that MRN are on the back foot. They’re playing defensively and cautiously now, but it’s not all over yet. That said, they will have to choose their moment to strike back, otherwise TSM are just going to knock down the next bottom tower and continue to enjoy their slightly deeper wallet.
Rob: Jatt with a crucial point there. In situations like this, a team like MRN should be playing more fearlessly, more aggressively, because really all conservative play gets you is a slow, predictable defeat at this point.
Paul: MRN are still being outlaned and slowly, surely, TSM are winning the battle of attrition. Ever have a dog get onto a bed or a chair with you and very slowly, very carefully squeeze you off and take the space for itself? That’s TSM right now, pushing with all their paws. So to speak.
And now they’re 10k richer.
Paul: MRN are looking a little stronger now as they defend on their own turf and I think they did well to trade one kill for one on that defensive action at the top, even with TSM enjoying the Baron buff. TSM now know that they’ll have to work hard to make that final push and MRN aren’t going to lie down for them. Can they do it?
Rob: Well, that’s that. MRN were looking like they might be able to cling to their second inhibitor but that poke from TSM just kept them out of position and they had no ability to sustain. Hard to do when you’re playing from that far behind. MRN made a good fight of it, but clearly their teamfighting needs work. Not sure if I liked their comp against TSM either, but that could just be hindsight.
11:30 - GGU vs. Vulcun
Rob: All right, it's 5 in the morning in the UK, almost, and I have sent Paul to bed. Just you, me, and two win-less LoL teams!
Rob: This is already looking bad for GGU. They're falling behind on CS, and gave up an uncontested dragon. And now the towers are starting to come down.
Rob: Wow, great save by Vulcun there. Took Ezreal's ult across the broadside and got dropped down low, then managed to turn around and hammer GGU with Jarvis' ult. Nice play, robbed GGU of the momentum they'd picked up in mid. Game more even than I thought it would be by now. Although to be fair, both teams are being very picky about engagements.
Wow, Vulcun must be desperate... and there we go. Vulcun has been getting the edge in all these fights but not getting kills out of it. Now they just charged in and picked up a couple kills on GGU, but they overextended a bit and gave up a kill. Neither side can land that game-changing blow.
Wow, how things change. Vulcun's impatience got the better of them and they just got crushed by GGU. Four deaths and they lost the mid inhibitor. The complexion of this game just totally changed.
And that's game, folks. GGU just crushed Vulcun there by the end, some very bad teamfights, the last one worst of all, amounting to collective suicide. And with that, GGU are no longer tied for last, and I am headed to bed. Not a great night of LoL, on balance, but hopefully these less-experienced teams can approach parity over the coming weeks.