MSI Preview – Beşiktaş e-Sports Club

The Team

Storied multisport Turkish athletic club Beşiktaş J.K. made minor waves in January when they acquired the Aces High League of Legends team to become the inaugural members of the new Beşiktaş e-Sports Club. The newly sponsored professionals then proceeded to totally dominate their domestic Turkish Champions League with a sterling 12-2 record, their only losses coming with two substitutes in the final week. They then swept their way to a playoff championship over former World Championship participant Dark Passage, earning a trip to the International Wild Card Invitational. At the Invitational, Beşiktaş squeaked into the playoffs with a 3-3 group stage record, then dominated the playoffs, losing only one game and grabbing the available MSI spot in front of the Turkish home crowd.

The Players

Top Lane – Berke “Thaldrin” Demir
Key Champions – Rumble Hecarim Maokai

Early in the Wild Card Invitational, Thaldrin played a very uninspiring Maokai in a Beşiktaş loss. He did not return to that Maokai until the playoffs, choosing instead Rumble and Gnar, champions on which he could do damage and control the midgame. Thaldrin is the shotcaller and star of Beşiktaş, and the team is most successful when Thaldrin plays carry-style champions and makes plays all over the map. He clearly knows how to pressure his lane, and can succeed in 1v1 lanes or lane swaps, ruthlessly punishing his opponents’ errors with kills or burned summoners. That being said, he occasionally has an iffy laning phase, falling behind in farm or kills, and although he can dominate teamfights he seems prone to questionable decision-making about when and how to fight.

Jungle –  Muhammed “Theokoles” Işik
Key Champions – Gragas Rek’Sai Nunu

Theokoles was a clear step ahead of his domestic counterparts in the jungle, and it is easy to see why. His map movements are impeccable and he has an impressive instinct for his enemies’ movements and plans. Yet far too often he makes a great play and follows it up with a bizarre decision, like farming the enemy jungle with no wards or clearing an enemy ward without vision. Theokoles has a great feel for how to move through the jungle, which he far too frequently relies on instead of actually using wards. His team pays for this lack of vision in the mid and late game, making it incredibly difficult to close out games unless their opponent makes an egregious error. These mistakes were frequent at the Wild Card Invitational, but the best teams in the Big 5 leagues will limit these kinds of mistakes. When Theokoles is playing well, his team is hard to beat, but the MSI competition will be much more prepared to punish his deficiencies than anything he has seen so far.

Mid – Isak “Energy” Pettersen Fjell
Key Champions – Lulu Ahri Nidalee

For much of the domestic season, Energy was a nice counterpoint to Thaldrin, providing safe utility-based carries and a solid laning phase with his Lulu and Nidalee picks. However, he shines when he plays assassins, especially his Ahri, with which he dominated the Wild Card Invitational. Alone among his team, Energy seems to be able to turn on and off the pure aggression that defines Beşiktaş, making him scarier in some ways than the more celebrated carries surrounding him.

AD Carry -Tomáš “Nardeus” Maršálek
Key Champions – Sivir Lucian

Nardeus is just a lane winning machine. He is always up in pressure, up in farm, up in kills, and he delights in skirmishing. In the Turkish League, Nardeus was able to simply bully his way to victory with extreme aggression through all points in the game. At the Wild Card Invitational against higher quality teams, he still won the laning phase almost every game, but his teamfighting was exposed, as he was consistently punished for poor positioning. If Nardeus can play a more circumspect midgame in addition to his powerful laning, he will surprise some of the more well-known bot laners at the MSI, but if he cannot reign in some of his aggression and positioning, the other teams at the tournament will feast on him.

Support – Mustafa “Dumbledoge” Kemal Gökseloğlu
Key Champions – Janna Thresh Morgana

Dumbledoge deserves some of the credit for Beşiktaş’ excellent 2v2 laning, and he took over games at the Wild Card Invitational with his outstanding skill shots on Thresh and Morgana. However, Dumbledoge also deservedly gets a large portion of the blame for Beşiktaş’ consistently poor vision control. It is not his fault that his teammates would far too rarely help him ward, but he was also responsible for questionable warding decisions, like when he would frequently ward one side of the jungle before his team fought on the other.

Picks and Bans

Most of the Turkish Season was played before the advent of Cinderhulk, so Beşiktaş can be somewhat forgiven for picking a very damage-focused style over tankiness, with midgame junglers like Rek’Sai and high damage toplaners like Rumble. Other priority picks were Ahri, Janna, and Gragas. In parts of the Wild Card Invitational, Beşiktaş showed an advanced approach to pick/ban phase, banning some of their opponent’s strong champions and picking others away. However they eventually abandoned this sophistication, instead banning the same few champions every game in the finals, and counting on outplaying their opponent rather than outpicking them.

Playstyle

Beşiktaş is content to usually play defensively level 1, warding the river or feinting an invade, and then letting their opponent dictate the early game. They are usually happy with lane swaps, although they can be fooled pretty easily due to their lack of deep wards early on. Their 2v2 laning is also fine, although they stagnate a bit in even lanes, without much objective focus or movement until they get a tower. They have excellent early game coordination, led by Theokoles’ outstanding early jungle pathing, and they have very good Scuttlecrab control at all points of the game. This means that even absent wards, they are extremely good at collapsing on enemies in the jungle and they can easily punish mistakes as a team. However they paradoxically couple this teamwide discipline with an unbelievable willingness to overpursue enemies into terrible situations. During the Wild Card Invitational, most teams were flustered by Beşiktaş’ aggression, but some were able to use that aggression against them, forcing chaotic fights that Beşiktaş could not resist engaging but that they could not hope to win.

Besides this, Beşiktaş’ biggest problem by far is their vision control. It improved throughout the Wild Card Invitational, even culminating in a Sightstone from their jungler in the finals, but they were still constantly trying to make plays in an unwarded jungle or overpursuing without vision. Against the best teams, they will not be able to count on closing out games by simply getting ahead and waiting for their opponent to make a mistake; instead they will have to aggressively use vision to force those mistakes, an aspect of their game that was consistently missing.

Player to Watch

Thaldrin

Beşiktaş’ captain and leader is going to be in an awkward place this tournament. It is easy to imagine that his Rumble and Hecarim will be banned or picked away, and his Maokai was decent but uninspiring. Beşiktaş needs Thaldrin to perform to succeed, and Thaldrin will be eager to show his skills against the world’s best, but he may not have the champion pool to make the impact his team needs.

Key Number – 4

That’s the number of games, out of 15, Beşiktaş’ full roster played through the Turkish League semifinals that lasted until 33 minutes. Even in the finals, they had longer games but only in one game did the outcome ever feel in the slightest bit of doubt. Beşiktaş’ rocky start to the Wild Card Invitational could likely be partly attributed to their lack of domestic competition, and though they improved through the tournament, they are still a mostly untested team. Beşiktaş does not have many games to adjust to international competition at the MSI, and if they take too long to figure it out they could be out of the tournament almost before it starts.

Outlook

Beşiktaş no doubt plans to make a splash at the MSI, but it probably should be considered a victory just to make it in. There are the pieces of a really strong international team hidden in Beşiktaş, but they will have trouble winning even one game as long as their play looks as sloppy as it did in the Wild Card Invitational.

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