League of Legends World Championship 2017: Legends Sometimes Die

The League of Legends World Championship 2017 has come and gone. With it, we have seen perhaps the biggest upset in League of Legends history. SKT—the poster children for Korean LoL and three time World Champions—have been dethroned by their rivals Samsung Galaxy. For SKT fans this series was heart-breaking as their heroes fell in a best-of-five series 3-0 to Samsung Galaxy.

No one expected to see this. Even after two solid victories from Samsung there was still faith in SKT. They have been inches from death many times before, in this tournament alone, but always they have managed to cling to life and claw their way back into it. They gave a valiant effort in Game 3, but in the end their dreams of continuing their dynasty were foiled. Having had a few days to get over the shock, I now feel ready to give a run-down of just why and how these legends were overthrown.

One could argue that since last year, Samsung has been training with the specific intention of defeating SKT. Having defeated them at the last hurdle in 2016 to secure their third World title, Samsung may have been confident that SKT could reach the finals for a fourth time in 2017. They also would have been confident in their own ability to do so.

League of Legends World Championship 2017

Therefore, this team was presented with the task of finding a weakness in SKT’s classic strategies. This, for anyone who knows SKT well, is not as easy as it sounds. There is a reason a team is considered (rightly) to be the best in world, and it is not for rolling out the exact same strategy every game. Likewise, the best player in the world, SKT Faker, has not acquired this title by only mastering a handful of champions and playstyles. This team is highly adaptable. Their safest, most comfortable territory is a slow early game, scaling to the stage where they can team fight and use their superior coordination to overwhelm their opponent. We saw this numerous times this year; even when SKT was down significantly in gold, they reached the late game and their opponent didn’t have a chance.

So, how do you defeat a team that can adapt to such an extent and has such legendary team fighting skills? It seems that in this event, Samsung simply decided to beat SKT at their own game.

 

The Highlights

Game 1 was a resounding victory for Samsung Galaxy. The game began very slowly, with no kills even by the 20-minutes mark. However, Samsung Galaxy was steadily building a lead both in gold and objectives, and they did not grow overconfident with this lead. They were as patient and slowly stripped away turrets and closed the noose around their enemy’s base. However, SKT Peanut made what looked like a questionable attempt at a Baron steal that actually ended in SKT taking the Baron due to bad focusing from Samsung Galaxy.

This could have been a terrible mistake from Samsung Galaxy by not just focusing on killing the Baron quickly instead of killing Peanut when he jumped into the pit. However, luckily for Samsung Galaxy, their old rivals saw red and in a rare moment of rashness the World Champions proceeded to throw this advantage. Peanut fell shortly after the Baron and the ensuing fight was a 4vs5 in Samsung Galaxy’s favor. After a great flank from Samsung Galaxy CuVee on AD Kennen of all things, they picked up four kills for themselves. Three Mountain Drakes for Samsung contributed hugely to their push on objectives and from this point it was a simply matter of closing out the game.

League of Legends World Championship 2017

Game 2 began much more promisingly for SKT, as they opted for some early aggression on Samsung Galaxy. They picked up a good First Blood on Samsung Galaxy Crown, a Drake, and Peanut pulled of a perfect Explosive Cask to secure a kill onto CuVee. Both kills were even funneled onto Faker, which in most cases would be a very scary prospect for an opposing team. Unfortunately, on the Ryze, he didn’t have quite the same impact in the earlier stages of the game even with this lead.

It’s worth mentioning the Yasuo pick from Huni, which has previously been a huge boon for SKT this year by being a massive threat in top lane. While this was a rather risky pick, especially with an enemy Malzahar, he did manage to pick up the first tower kill for his team. He was actually doing very well, and if it hadn’t been for Samsung pulling off one of the most ridiculous Wombo Combos of Worlds 2017, this game may have been his for the taking. Following their second Mountain Drake of the game, SKT engaged onto Samsung, and it looked like they would most likely win the fight. However, Samsung Galaxy Ambition swooped in out of nowhere with a three-man Jarvan ultimate and was followed up by a three-man root from Ruler’s Xayah into a three-man knock up from the Flag-and-Drag on Ambition. The rest was cleaned up with the ultimate from CuVee on Gnar. This was honestly an exquisite piece of play- perfect chain CC onto no less than three members of SKT’s team making the fight an Ace for Samsung Galaxy with only one answering kill from SKT. From this point Samsung Galaxy easily took Baron and the game.

League of Legends World Championship 2017

Game 3 looked much better for SKT during they early game; they were leading 5 by kills and were ahead in Drakes and Towers. SKT chose to run Leona with Fervor to increase lane priority and get Bang ahead on Tristana. Additionally, they put Faker on Karma in the mid lane to bring some more team fight sustained and peel for Bang. With Huni on a comfort pick of Trundle and already ahead in gold, this looked like the perfect game to facilitate Bang’s growth into an unstoppable hyper carry.

Samsung Galaxy did manage to take a few kills in return and were by no means out of the game until SKT took a crucial team fight and Baron. At this point the gold lead on SKT was substantial and represented a significant obstacle for Samsung Galaxy to overcome. At this stage, Bang was 4-0 and absolutely huge on Tristana. However, SKT was caught out of position and CuVee was able to devour Bang on Cho’Gath, which led to a free Baron and a few of SKT’s structures. Samsung overstayed their welcome and did concede a few kills back to SKT. Even with the lead they had, including four regular Drakes and an Elder Drake, SKT could not finish off Samsung Galaxy in the final team fight and the League of Legends World Championship 2017 title went to Samsung Galaxy.

League of Legends World Championship 2017

Final Conclusions

SKT has fallen, but what does this mean for the LoL competitive scene? Despite this being a considerable blow to SKT, this will by no means be the end of the team. It may, however, be the beginning of a new era. Is it Samsung Galaxy’s turn to begin a dynasty or could this be a chance for a lesser known team to make it in the wake of SKT’s failure? Whatever the case, Korean teams have time and time again proven their worth on the LoL professional stage, and if teams from other regions want to hold the Summoner’s Cup, they will have to raise their game.

I still question the decision to put the fate of the final match in Bang’s hands. Relegating Faker to the position of a utility mid lane instead of allowing him to shine on a high-burst mage in Game 3 was nothing short of madness. Even though Bang had all the tools he needed, he was unable to carry his team to victory! Huni has been outstanding this season, as has Faker, which made this call extremely questionable.

That being said, SKT as a whole is still legendary with all of their accomplishments. The unbeatable giant has been slain and we’ll have to see what changes take place during the off-season. Will SKT manage to regain their former glory and take back the title? We will have to wait until Season 8 to find out.

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League of Legends: World Championship Semi-Finals, Heeeeeere’s Galio!

The semi-finals have come and gone and only two teams remain to fight for the Summoner’s Cup. It has all been leading up to this point – each week the stakes getting higher and tension becoming more palpable. We have seen minor upsets and exciting games. We have seen clinical victories and hard-won dogfights. What does next week hold in store? Who will be crowned the World Champions of 2017? We will have to wait, with baited breath, to find out. For now, we will have to settle for the highlights of the weekend, and two legendary series between China and Korea.

Samsung Galaxy vs World Elite

This series was a decisive win for Samsung Galaxy. Early on they found a solid impetus and steadily built on it until their opponents couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by them. However, Samsung Galaxy did not begin as they meant to go on.

The first game of this series raised the roof of the auditorium as the crowd saw their team, WE, exert a dominance we have rarely seen when facing off against a Korean team. From the outset, this game was one-sided, with WE showing well-calculated moves around the map and a considered awareness of SSG’s composition’s strengths and weaknesses.

However, from this point on, the light seemed to fade from WE’s eyes as they slowly fell into the grip of the war machine that is SSG. In Game 2, WE also showed some promise, however, SSG gained an early lead and boy did they know how to use it. They closed out this game with relative ease to put the series at 1-1.

Game 3 began at a glacial pace but eventually gathered momentum and snowballed into a veritable avalanche of well-played teamfights from SSG and questionable decisions from WE. With no kills before the 21-minute mark, this game had the latest First Blood of Worlds and led to SSG’s eventual victory.

The fourth and final game of the series showed some fight was still left in WE. SSG secured First Blood but WE turned a messy dive from their opponents into a couple of revenge kills and later managed to pick up two more through good individual player skill. After these minor victories they were, in fact, leading in gold and had picked up an Infernal Drake for themselves but SSG pulled off a turnaround to a crucial teamfight in the botlane and flipped the balance. This led to them securing Baron and patiently closing the noose around WE. Series 3-1 SSG.

I often feel that watching SSG play is like watching a surgeon working on an unruly patient. They assess the situation, consider all the factors, decide on a course of action, and execute it with precision and skill. They know when to hang back and allow the patient to flop about and shout, and they know when to cut. And when they cut, they cut deep. Samsung Galaxy are heading to the finals.

SKTelecom vs Royal Neve Give Up

This series was much closer than the above match-up. Both teams demonstrated some excellently well-orchestrated plays and some brave champion choices. However, it was the three-time World Champions, SKT that eventually came out on top. They will be heading for a rematch with their old foes Samsung Galaxy next week, but before we look into predictions for this historic final let’s look at some highlights from the semi-finals series.

Game 1 of this series was a real show of dominance from RNG. From the outset, this Chinese team seemed confident and ready to take on the best team the world has ever seen and more importantly, they showed it in their plays. This team operated with a level of aggression that is characteristic of their past performances, giving them a solid win to start to series.

The second game was much closer, though SKT built up a steady lead for themselves during the mid-game and abused some crucial power-spikes in order to close out a victory. The stamina and patience possessed by this team is unmatched. They will pick scaling champions, lie in wait until their composition is nigh-on unstoppable, and steamroll for the win. Series 1-1.

Game 3 saw Xiaohu make an insane outplay in the midlane against the uncontested best player in the world, Faker, and take First Blood in the 1v1. An excellent performance on Vayne by Uzi and some more aggressive plays spelled doom for SKT in the end. RNG leading 2-1.

The fourth game showed some more great plays from Xiaohu on Ryze early on, but SKT possessed the ticking time-bomb that is Kog’Maw and Lulu and they reached a point in the game when RNG just couldn’t deal with the kiting and damage coming out from the little void puppy. RNG managed to take a turnaround fight to close the lead, but by this point, SKT’s composition was at near-peak power and there was no stopping them take Game 4. Series 2-2.

Game 5 was RNG’s last chance to dethrone the three-time World Champions but they seemed to choke from the outset, with SKT taking two early kills and the first turret. RNG tried to play with their classic aggressive style by picking up champions like Lee Sin and Corki, but SKT is simply too good at executing teamfights and reacting to engage attempts. SKT, again, move to a decisive victory over RNG and a place in the final.

Faker stepped away from any high-mobility assassins this series and instead played every single game on Galio. If anything, this proves his mastery of such a wide champion pool and his game knowledge, as he not only played very well but actually carried his team to most of their victories in this series. I think we’ll see some serious priority put on this champion going into the final.

Predictions

My prediction for the final is rather simple: this year we have seen SKT’s weaknesses. We have seen them bleed at the hands of Misfits and RNG. We have seen them fail in competitions over the summer. We have even seen them make silly mistakes on occasion.

However, some say the beast that is SKT cannot be stopped. Some say the players are not human but that they are in fact robotic experiments in League of Legends perfection. Others say they were forged in a secret lab and escaped to exact their revenge by winning at eSports.

Whatever the truth, it still remains to be seen whether or not this team is mortal.

One thing is for certain, though, if there is one team in the world that has a chance at proving once and for all whether it is in SKT’s programming to lose, it is their old rivals, Samsung Galaxy.

Don’t miss the last installment next week for the Finals Results and Highlights!

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League of Legends: Week 1 Groups, Cho’Gath Says “NOM NOM NOM…”

Everyone went into the first week of the Group Stage with high hopes for some explosive games and exciting results. They were not disappointed. This week has been one of the most exciting I can remember with all the highlight plays, upsets, and examples of fantastic planning and execution that we have come to expect from the League of Legends World Championship. Before getting into the final results of the League of Legends: Week 1 Groups, I’ll give a run-down of a few highlight games this week.

Highlights

G2 eSports vs Samsung Galaxy:

As expected G2 played a great macro game, making considered moves around the map and using information provided by having vision of the enemy champions to the full. Their team composition supported this roaming playstyle (a feature of G2’s playstyle), including Shen, Ivern, and Corki. This provided a large lead in the early game. Samsung Galaxy, on the other hand, picked a team composition to win the teamfights – and win they did. With Taric and Gragas providing a very beefy frontline and Crown playing a near-perfect game on Taliyah, they steamrolled G2 several times, securing Baron and enough structures to ensure their victory.

Samsung Galaxy striking a pose.

Lonzhu Gaming vs Immortals:

Immortals’ team composition in this game was built to poke the enemy time and zone them from afar. Maokai, Ezreal, Ryze, and Varus did this very effectively for them in the early game and they were able to control Lonzhu Gaming’s movements and get themselves a lead. Longzhu, however, chose the composition to beat a poke-based team, a team with hard engage. Kha’zix, Jarvan IV, and Tristana provided a huge amount of burst and lock-down potential for them. Neither team chose to pick up much of a frontline which was interesting, especially considering the success of tanky teams up to this point. Longzhu managed to pick up a Baron, but Immortals were ahead in kills. Longzhu eventually won out due to some calm, collected play and capitalizing on Immortals comparatively reckless decisions. Pobelter made some questionable decisions on Ryze for Immortals and Pray came up huge on Tristana for Longzhu.

Fnatic vs Gigabyte Marines:

This game was by far the most action-filled, exciting game I have watched in a long time. No one would have expected it: Europe’s third seed playing against the Vietnamese underdogs, but this match was the highlight of the week for me. Fnatic took first blood after a messy tower dive (this seems to be becoming a feature of their playstyle). Levi (GAM’s jungler) picked Nocturne to the excitement of the crowd. He became “man of the match” within the first five minutes by taking 3 kills for his team. Fnatic looked more controlled through the game, but GAM didn’t allow them any room to breathe by keeping the pressure up and making numerous aggressive plays around the map. This was probably the bloodiest game this week- there were 17 kills inside of 14 minutes! This furious pace only accelerated with skirmishes all over the map. Levi built up a huge lead on his Bloodrazor, Guinsoo’s Rageblade Nocturne- not even I saw that coming! In the end Noway finished the game for Gigabyte Marines in style by getting a Quadra kill on Tristana. Honestly, I loved watching GAM play. Their team composition was brave and built around engaging with Tristana, Kassadin and Nocturne and then Galio providing follow-up. This was the best use of reworked Galio, and the best game, I have seen in some time.

Gigabyte Marines Levi being awesome.

Edward Gaming vs AHQ eSports:

There was a massive teamfight early on in this game that gave AHQ a great lead to play off. Their ADC, An, got a Quadra kill on Twitch – something that, to many teams, would spell doom from that moment. However EDG did not give up and, with a scaling composition, they knew they could take back the lead. Each team had a similar composition- a hyper carry with a number of champions to protect them. However, EDG departed from everyone’s expectations with their champion builds, specifically a tank Kog’Maw. AHQ ended up winning a fight and taking Baron. They used this very well to exert pressure on the map. However, they were locked down by a fantastic Sejuani ultimate and EDG turned the tide in their favor. From this point, it really seemed like EDG’s game. They played a very patient game, not allowing themselves to grow overconfident and instead starving every objective and structure away from AHQ. However, An again came in strong for AHQ, and with a Cho’Gath providing literally a massive front line, he was able to deal serious damage on his Twitch. They won this fight and were able to take Baron and push down Toplane. At the mammoth time of 60 minutes, AHQ won the game.

Edward Gaming vs SK Telecom T1:

This game was quite something to behold. EDG, in contrast to the game above, were very aggressive in their moves early on, especially around midlane. Clearly, the strategy going in was to focus Faker down and starve him of resources to prevent him from becoming a threat. EDG picked up First Blood on Faker, and minutes later followed up with a tower dive in the midlane securing three more kills and two turrets. Needless to say, their strategy was working out. In fairness to them, they capitalized on this huge lead and at 20 minutes the score was 5-0 in their favor, and they also had a Rift Herald and Mountain Drake to their name.

They looked in a very strong position at this stage, leading in kills, gold, and two objectives that aid in pushing lanes and snowballing the game. In fact, two minutes later they had Baron and three more kills, with SKT still not even on the board. All seemed lost for SKT- but a terrible mistake from EDG put SKT back in the game. EDG were pushing down midlane in an attempt to solidify their lead, with no vision on SKT. SKT chose this moment to flank them and unleash a merciless wombo combo of ultimates, wiping EDG. Following this SKT were able to take Baron among other objectives in an attempt to regain traction. However, EDG had such a sizeable gold lead they won the next teamfight and, with SKT’s base sitting open, they took the midlane inhibitor. Unbelievably though SKT caught EDG in a bottleneck and won a crucial fight! This late into the game SKT had a terrifying frontline, Bang was putting out a lot of damage on Twitch, and following such an important victory they were able to stomp down EDG and win the fight.

I was conflicted following the game over whether or not SKT deserved to win when they played so poorly for such a large portion of the game. I came to the conclusion that the final result was in fact evidence of a team with serious experience and fortitude that, despite a weak season, are proving they are still possibly the best team in the world.

SKT Faker at the Madison Square Garden.

SKT vs AHQ:

Similar to the last game, SKT’s opponents found an early lead. SKT took back some revenge kills botlane but AHQ won an important teamfight by the Baron pit. Each team had favored late-game scaling compositions, so there was a sense of building momentum through the game. SKT made a rare and crucial mistake that may have cost them the game, in letting AHQ sneak a Baron. The Cho’Gath pick for AHQ seemed too strong for SKT to deal with. However, after yet another near-perfect performance, Faker’s Fizz came into the game and he managed to finally bypass Cho’Gath and find AHQ’s backline. This led to SKT’s victory and their number one place in their group.

 

Week 1 Groups Round-up

This week was a tumultuous one, with back and forth games and near-losses left and right. SKT obviously proved themselves again. Some might argue they got very lucky in winning crucial fights, but my argument would be that they know when to sit back and farm, and they also know when to go all-in and take advantage of opponents’ mistakes. Likewise, Gigabyte Marines put in a fantastic performance and I look forward to seeing more of them. Fnatic and EDG, among others, disappointed me this week. I hoped to see more considered play from these experienced teams. They have few chances left to redeem themselves. Hopefully, they take those chances.

Already we are seeing a very specific META emerging. Cho’Gath is the “buzz” name of the week, for in almost every game he was either picked or banned and the teams that picked him up more often than not enjoyed resounding victories. The dependability of his almost untouchable tankiness in teamfights, coupled with his strong crowd control and high-damage ultimate made him a very strong contender. Following this week I can only see his pick/ban priority rising. As well as this, the relevance of the Ardent Censer item must be mentioned. We are seeing a lot of priority put on shield-heavy supports such as Lulu and Janna, and for good reason.

“I don’t always NOM, but when I do I NOM NOM NOM” -Cho’Gath

My personal hope is that in the coming weeks, teams take a leaf out of Levi’s book and attempt more imaginative picks. However, I lament the sad fact that this most likely will happen very little, simply due to the nature of the game. Good luck to all the teams, and I will check in again next week for more highlights and analysis! And if you see something with four arms and an apostrophe in its name run. Run for the hills lest you get NOMMED.

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