The much-delayed League of Legends Season 2 playoffs concluded last night at LA’s Galen Center, where CLG’s quarterfinal series against World Elite finally reached its end prior to a long semifinal round. With the main stage still under construction behind the casting booth, teams were forced to play from separate backstage locations without a live audience, an arrangement that may have lacked the grandeur of the LA Live outdoor arena, but which at least eliminated any chances for more of the cheating that troubled the playoffs’ earlier matches.
It was an odd night of uneven games and close-fought series, with each of the two semifinal matches going to three games.
But first, CLG EU needed to finish their battle with World Elite in their sixth and final game. CLG confirmed that they had indeed figured out how to beat WE, as it appeared they had during Saturday’s failed quarterfinal. This time, however, CLG EU had the work down to a science, and over the course of 43 minutes they dismantled World Elite. It was the same deliberate, long-game strategy that CLG had used successfully on Saturday, but this time everything happened much faster and easier for CLG, who never really fell behind in the match and who jumped out to an insurmountable lead with a huge teamfight victory around 28 minutes that gave them total control of the match. With that victory, CLG were headed to face Korea’s Azubu Frost in the semifinal.
But first, Moscow 5 had to face Taipei Assassins (TPA) in the evening’s most stunning match. It started brutally, with M5 crushing Taipei assassins in just a half hour of play, without losing a single tower or giving up a single dragon. It was such a shattering victory that, immediately afterwards, it looked like the series was basically over. M5 seemed surprised at how easily they’d rolled over TPA, and TPA looked depressed and beaten.
But TPA banned Vayne the next game, denying M5’s Genja another chance to rack up nine kills with her, while M5 went with an odd selection of champions (including Yorick, Zilean, and Kog’Maw) that matched up badly with TPA’s more conventional choices. The early game got off to a disastrous start for M5 when Gozu got killed before minion spawn, and that set the tone for the rest of the match. M5 gave up four kills in the first give minutes of the match and were down by an 1800 gold deficit. They never made it up: TPA finished them off in just 28 minutes without M5 having been able to snag a single tower kill.
Game 3 was similar in terms of dominance. M5 lost their battles in the lane, then got outfarmed, and finally lost their teamfights. It was another bad mismatch, where TPA had gone heavily into faster ranged heroes while M5 had staked everything on their ability to win a big melee. TPA never gave them the fight they wanted, picking them off from long range and running away from any unfavorable engagement. M5 went down in 44 minutes, but they were never really in the game.
Taipei Assassins’ “poke” build seemed to inspire CLG’s decision about how to handle Korea Azubu Frost in their first game. LIke TPA, CLG EU went for a ton of ranged heroes and slowly bled Azubu Frost white over the course of the game. Frost could only cluster around their turrets while CLG fired shots at them, then executed perfect fighting retreats every time Frost lunged at them. In just 35 minutes, CLG got Frost’s nexus while losing just a single tower in return.
But Frost had a lot more tricks up their sleeve. They banned Jayce, who’d enabled so much of CLG’s strategy in the last game, then proceeded to go on a killing spree that gave them a 5,000 gold advantage 14 minutes into Game 2. The rest of the match only took another 16 minutes, and in that time CLG managed but a single tower kill and not a single player kill.
Game 3 featured more back and forth. CLG got out to an early lead, but by 10 minutes into the game, Frost were back in charge and their top lane player, Park “Shy” Sang Myeon had the run of the map. Far more than their narrow gold advantage, Frost enjoyed a huge experience advantage that left them with the upper hand in every encounter. CLG effectively could not engage at anything approaching even odds, and had to avoid Shy entirely.
CLG nearly managed to turn things around when an overconfident Shy and Frost team gave up a series of kills and let CLG back into the game, but Frost repaid them with a 4-0 teamfight in the middle lane that caused CLG to completely crumble within four minutes.
For their appearances in the semifinals, both M5 and CLG EU walk away with $150,000. Semifinal winners Taipei Assassins and Azubu Frost will face each other on Saturday night at 3 AM UK / 10 PM Eastern in the World Championship Final, with a $1,000,000 prize on the line.