It’s partly coincidence that the three games that most caught my attention were the first three, partly MSI hype, and partly I only watched intermittently for the last few games.
Game 1: FNC vs TSM: A draft gone wrong
Let’s start out with a quiz to see how far back you remember. Below is two Fnatic ban lists; can you name which one was against TSM today and which was against H2K in the EU LCS semifinals?
If you said TSM was the top one, good job! You correctly identified which video I was watching in higher resolution! This toplane banning is something Fnatic has been a part of in the past. They know they play a different top lane pool than anyone else and they have plans to use that to their advantage. The last time they did this, they pulled out a clever Lee Sin double jungle, and even though it ultimately lost 2 out of 3 games to H2K, there are two things for TSM to remember. The first is that Fnatic got an early advantage for their top laner in those games. The second is that Fnatic certainly has pocket picks prepared. TSM should know that Fnatic has a plan not only to make a surprise pick but to babysit that pick to relevance.
Meanwhile, TSM has a different thought in mind. They know that the only champion in Febiven’s pool that is safe to first pick is Leblanc. They also know they have the last pick trump card for Bjergsen. Finally, they know that the only all-around powerful toplane pick available after their final ban of Vladimir is Gnar, and Urgot is still available. This is where TSM miscalculates. As the only safe blue side midlaner available, Leblanc is the obvious first pick for Fnatic, leaving TSM Urgot, Gnar and the last pick to counter whatever Fnatic has planned. But Fnatic calls TSM’s bluff; there is no circumstance in which TSM will not last pick their midlaner. Fnatic can save the Leblanc pick for second rotation and grab Urgot first. In response,TSM gets their Gnar, letting Fnatic unleash their unknown pocket toplane pick, and they also make a very committal Rek’Sai pick over Gragas and Sejuani. Rek’Sai is the premier jungler in even lanes — he is the best jungler at ganking and the best at dueling early. TSM has more or less committed to 2v2 laning, with heavy jungle pressure. On the one hand, this lets their mid and bot laners shine with counter picks, and it keeps YellOwStaR in lane instead of roaming, but on the other hand, Fnatic is free to catch TSM totally off guard with their Cassiopeia pick in the third rotation. At this point, not only does TSM have to choose whether to play for scaling with Azir or countering with Cho’Gath, they also have to guess which laner will be going to which solo lane.
Still, this is far from disastrous for TSM. In fact, the draft could even be thought of as favorable. They have the match-ups they want in mid, bot, and in the jungle, and their top laner will be fine as long as he stays more or less even. After a shaky first few levels, not only will Gnar become dangerous in the laning phase for Cassiopeia in 1v1 or 2v1 duels, but he will be much more useful in the midgame as a front line tank than Cass could be on a hyperscaling mage. Even if Cass makes it to the lategame, it is unclear whether Fnatic’s squishy team will be able to kill TSM fast enough anyway. Not only that, but the Cassiopeia pick is even more committal than TSM’s Rek’Sai. Fnatic obviously planned to use Cassiopeia to push TSM’s toplane in a 1v1 and harass Gnar out of lane or dive him. The only thing Gnar had to do to give TSM the edge all over the map was to survive that early 1v1 and 2v1 pressure. This is why TSM did not lane swap. They were correctly counting on their ability to outlane in the bottom ⅔ of the map. Sivir was up 12 cs on Urgot at 10 minutes. Cho’Gath was down a kill but still up 13 cs. Even Rek’Sai had a 4 cs lead. The problem was this:
Gnar trying to farm at his turret with half health. This matchup is no doubt difficult early for Gnar. Even if it were good for Gnar, Dyrus is surely unpracticed. It is a difficult situation. Yet it is inexcusable for a pro team to allow a strategy so utterly transparent to succeed with such little resistance. No minion kill is worth the harass that Dyrus takes, and TSM needs to formulate a much better contingency plan than just to keep farming all over the map. They either need to send their jungler top sooner or by make plays elsewhere, especially at dragon. TSM did not lose the Summoner’s Rift game in the draft, but they definitely lost the mind game, and they paid dearly for it.
BJK vs SKT: A New God Awakens
EDG vs ahq: Closer Than You Think
I have to admit, I am really high on ahq. I love the way this team plays hard and does not back down. They were outplayed by EDG in this game, but they were not outclassed. The difference just seemed to be EDG’s level of polish in teamfights. So, let’s make an alternate universe where ahq wins some of those team fights and see what happens.
Teamfight 1: Ahq Ganks Bot
The situation: Ahq has a nice little early lead in kills and gold and they are looking to make a play near dragon. Mountain ambles his way to the botlane against a vulnerable EDG AD Carry and Support.
Problem: J4 is really far away
Solution: Flag and drag
Better solution: Use the lantern!
Later in this very game in almost the same situation, J4 comes through the lane and easily kills Urgot almost instantly with a knockup ult combo after grabbing a lantern. In this case, Thresh should be on the other side of the lane, ready to pull in Jarvan and then get pulled himself by Kalista. At the very least, this lets J4 use his ultimate after getting knocked away by Alistar, and at best J4 locks down Urgot long enough to take him out instantly. Thresh, meanwhile, does not use his lantern at all in the ensuing fight.
Problem: Thresh is not next to Urgot
Solution: Use Kalista ult instantly to knockup Alistar, landing outside of J4 ult
Better Solution: Actually get to Urgot
This is a tough one. Alistar does an amazing job of getting in Thresh’s way, thus bouncing Thresh outside of the cataclysm. This would have been mitigated if ahq had used the lantern earlier, but there is nothing to be done about it at this point. Thresh needs to make sure he lands next to Urgot, even if it means not using the Kalista knockup. That way he can flay and hook Urgot, interrupting the position reverser, as well as avoid Alistar’s knockup. At the very least, it would save Jarvan from dying for a significant amount of time, giving ahq a 4v4 with each team having a weakened jungler, rather than a 3v4 after the teleports.
Ultimately, it would have been better for ahq if they had not even tried this fight, but with only two slight differences in execution, they give themselves a chance to at least go even and maybe even come out ahead. The game was not decided by one play, but this is the moment when ahq went from ahead to behind, and it could have gone much differently.
Teamfight 2: Karthus Has Rylais!
EDG camped in a warded bush to get a pick. Chaos ensued.
Imagine, for a moment that Karthus has a Rylai’s Crystal Scepter. It’s not hard because he does have a Rylai’s Crystal Scepter. Who knows how that Rylai’s impacted the game to that point. Maybe the passive saved someone from Hecarim’s passive. Maybe the extra health changed the game somehow. Who knows? What we do know is that it gives 100 ability power and 400 health, meaning that it gives at least 60 bonus damage to every Lay Waste and 20 extra damage per second to Defile. Against a target with 70 Magic Resistance — we’ll call him “Schmejuani,” a Karthus with 300 ability power and Sorcerer’s Shoes will do 875 Defile damage over 8 seconds, 375 Requiem damage and 270 Lay Waste damage if he hits two multitarget Lay Wastes for an approximate total of 1520.
Now’s pretend that Karthus has a Void Staff. That one’s tougher to picture, but still manageable. If you can’t do it, this is a void staff:
A void staff gives 70 ability power and 35% magic penetration. This time, against Schmejuani, Karthus with only 270 AP does 970 Defile damage over 8 seconds, 415 Requiem damage and 300 Lay Waste damage for a total of 1685. The difference is only 165. Can that make a difference?
It is not like a void staff alone would 100% turn the competition in ahq’s favor, but this fight was at the level where very marginal bits of damage could absolutely have changed the game. It is definitely arguable that the Rylai’s passive plus bonus health had a significant value in this fight over the raw damage, although it should also be noted that Void Staff is 600g cheaper, leaving room for a bit of tankiness or additional damage from other items. However, as we see here, this fight was really close, and ahq had a real chance, even as behind as they were. An alternate build could conceivably swing the battle and then the game.
My point here is not to argue that these two fights, nor any two fights, could alone swing the game one way or another. My point is just that many small things went in EDG’s favor this game, and that a couple of fixable issues could absolutely have ahq on top.